Winnipeg waitress fired for shaving head

A Winnipeg waitress says she was fired from her job as a server in a St. Boniface restaurant because she shaved her head.

A Winnipeg waitress says she was fired from her job as a server in a St. Boniface-area restaurant because she shaved her head.

Stephanie Lozinski, 21, shaved her hair off on New Year's Eve to show support for her uncle, who was dying of cancer. Her uncle passed away last week.

Despite wearing a scarf or wig when waiting tables at Sawatdee Thai Restaurant on Provencher Boulevard, Lozinski said she was fired several weeks later and told her appearance was unacceptable.

The University of Winnipeg student said she thinks the firing is wrong for a number of reasons.

"I think that women should be able to express themselves in any way that a man could and if a man can shave his head then I should be able to," she said.

"Also, that appearance has nothing to do with job performance."

Lozinski said she is not interested in getting her job back, but wants to raise awareness about the incident.

"I just think that what they did was inappropriate and offensive and if they don't share my values, then I don't think I should be working there."

The Manitoba Human Rights Commission has turned down Lozinski's case.

She said the commission told her the restaurant does have the right to fire her over her appearance. She was also told her case is not a human rights matter because she shaved her head voluntarily.

Calls to the restaurant and its owner by CBC News have not been returned. A sign on the restaurant indicates it is closed Thursday, but will reopen on Friday.

Hair disputes in restaurants rare

Disputes such as this are rare, according to the group that represents Manitoba restaurant owners.

"I've been here for four years and it's the first time I've heard of it," said Scott Jocelyn, executive director of the Manitoba Restaurant and Food Services Association.

Jocelyn advises owners of any business to set down clear rules for employees when they are hired.

"I think it's important that you lay down the groundwork on issues like this so that people understand there's an expectation, and if something happens to change that, I guess you're always hopeful that people can come to some kind of compromise that would work well for both sides."

In 2008, Stacey Fearnall, a waitress in Owen Sound, Ont., was told to take a leave of absence after she shaved her head for a cancer fundraiser.

Fearnall, 36, had refused to wear a wig after shaving off her hair to raise $2,700 for cancer research.

The move caused a public uproar, and Fearnall's boss later apologized.

With files from the CBC's Sean Kavanagh and Lyndsay Duncombe and The Canadian Press