Dressing down discriminatory dress codes

Sexualized and gender-based dress codes are off the menu in Ontario restaurants following Human Rights Commission’s report
By Nadia Zaman
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 05/10/2017

This year, on International Women’s Day, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released a new report, Not on the Menu: Inquiry report on sexual and gender-based dress codes in Ontario’s restaurants. This report outlines findings from an inquiry into dress codes at various Ontario restaurants and commitments made by a number of Ontario restaurant chains to put an end to discriminatory dress codes for restaurant staff — particularly female and transgender workers — and create more inclusive workplaces. The OHRC also released its Policy position on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes.

The result: sexual harassment and gender-based dress codes are off the menu, and will no longer be tolerated. Thus, employers with discriminatory dress codes expose themselves to liability.

The impetus for this report arose because some restaurants across Ontario have dress codes that require female servers to wear short skirts, tight dresses, high heels or low-cut tops; the same does not apply to male servers. Due to the systemic nature of the problem and the impact based on protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code, such as age, sex, creed, gender identity and gender expression, the OHRC decided to have a “call to action” on gender-based dress codes.