BUSINESS

Skimpy Bier Markt Dress Code Leads To Human Rights Complaints

11/04/2015 04:35 EST | Updated 11/04/2016 05:12 EDT
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Two former servers at a popular Toronto restaurant chain have filed complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission over the company's dress code.

Former Bier Markt employees Becky Lockert and Danielle Barbeau filed the complaints.

Lockert told CBC's Matt Galloway on Metro Morning on Wednesday that she quit her job because of the dress code. When she started at the restaurant, female staff were required to wear a black golf shirt and black pants, leggings or a skirt.

But the restaurant chain changed the dress code, and Lockert said female servers were required to wear a short, tight blue polyester cocktail dress.

"The material has been described as similar to that of a bathing suit — it's very, very thin," she said of the new uniforms.

Female servers were also expected to wear heels, she said. In comparison, male staff were required to wear jeans, a long-sleeved button-up shirt, and red converse sneakers.

She immediately complained to management about the new dress code, which she said made her job much more difficult.

"When you have to be constantly worried about your dress riding up, about your underwear showing, about not being able to move freely — you can't do your job," she said.

"And female servers are already put in kind of an interesting social position where people feel that they have a certain degree of intimacy with you … sometimes people feel as though they can put their arms around your waist, put their arms around your shoulders," she said.

"And from what I've heard from my colleagues who stuck around after this uniform was implemented, is that they have been grabbed by customers, they have been touched by customers to a degree that never happened before we had these uniforms."

CBC probe prompts change

The chain recently altered the dress code after CBC's Go Public made inquiries. Female employees now have the option of wearing pants or a dress, but Lockert said she is still going ahead with the complaint, which she filed Tuesday night.

"I had to quit my job over it," said Lockert. "I had to make the choice between  either — stay and have to subject myself to these working conditions while I'm fighting it, or quit."

She said it's common for women in the restaurant industry to be forced to wear tight clothing and heels, which she said can be painful after a long shift.

"It's just too normal. I don't want it to be normal anymore," she said.

Lockert said conversations about dress codes for women in the restaurant industry need to keep happening until change is made. She now works at another restaurant where she can wear pants and sneakers.

Cara Foods, the company that owns Bier Markt which has locations in Ontario and Quebec, has said that staff were involved in the uniform selection process and the company made changes based on staff feedback.

CBC News has asked Cara Foods for a response to the human rights tribunal complaint, but has not received a response.