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Ontario Human Rights Commission calls for end of sexualized dress codes at work

Last Updated Mar 10, 2016 at 6:58 am EDT

Mandatory Credit: Photo by OJO Images / Rex Features ( 1270245a )

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is calling for an end to sexualized dress codes that discriminate against female and transgender workers.

Chief commissioner Renu Mandhane says employers must make sure their dress codes don’t reinforce sexist stereotypes. Mandhane says policies requiring women to wear low-cut tops,
short skirts or high heels could violate the Human Rights code, and they send a message than an employees’ worth is tied to how they look.

In a policy position paper released today on gender-specific dress codes, the Commission said women should not be expected to dress in a sexualized way to attract clients.

Kathy Laird of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre says “excellent customer service doesn’t have a cup size.”

Laird encourages women to call her office for legal advice “if cleavage is deemed an essential skill in their workplace.”

The Commission said unequal treatment is still a daily challenge for women at work.

“This treatment is often visible in bars, restaurants and other services that require women to dress in high heels, tight dresses, low-cut tops and short skirts,” it said in a release.

“These dress codes persist across the restaurant industry, despite human rights decisions that have found them to be discriminatory. They may make employees more vulnerable to sexual
harassment, contribute to discriminatory work environments and exclude people based on sex, gender identity … or creed.”