Canada

Exotic dancer files age discrimination complaint

Kim Ouwroulis doesn't believe her age should be a barrier in her chosen career: exotic dancing.

Kim Ouwroulis doesn't believe her age should be a barrier in her chosen career: exotic dancing.

Kim Ouwroulis, 44, alleges the owner of a strip club fired her because she was too old. ((Courtesy of Kim Ouwroulis))
In an unusual test of age discrimination laws, the 44-year-old Toronto-area woman filed a complaint last month with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging the owner of a strip club fired her because she was too old.

Ouwroulis says she and three other women at the New Locomotion club in Mississauga were fired last summer, allegedly for the same reason.

"I was told by a manager, 'Your time is up here,'" she said. "At first I was speechless. And I said, well, 'Why am I being fired — my age?'

"I was told they were going in a new direction with younger girls," said Ouwroulis.

A tribunal official confirmed that a second complaint has been filed against the same employer but did not provide details.

The club owner has not returned phone calls from CBC News.

Ouwroulis started her exotic dancing career four years ago, and says she raked in thousands of dollars each week. Since her dismissal, Ouwroulis, who lives in the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville, has found work at another establishment in the Toronto area.

"I'm a bubbly blond with a good personality. The boobs and the blond hair, usually you can't go wrong in a strip club with those two things," she said.

Sex appeal argument 'tricky'

Denise Reaume, a University of Toronto professor who specializes in discrimination law, says the complaint explores uncharted territory.

"These kinds of cases don't get litigated very often, and so there's not a lot of hard thinking about them," says Reaume.

Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, employers are barred from treating a worker differently because of their age.

But while age discrimination cases typically examine the person's ability to perform their job, this case will look at how appearance, as it relates to age, plays a part.

Reaume says the respondent's underlying objection doesn't have to do with the quality of the dance, but rather the general appeal and look of the dancer.

"The question is going to be whether this employer can defend the argument that sex appeal is the essence of the job .… This is tricky because sexual response is as variable as human beings are."

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