Waitress: 'Servers are encouraged to not wear underwear'

Sexy outfits for woman servers isn't anything new. Anyone who's been to a Hooters or a Tilted Kilt can testify to that. One doesn't naturally expect a feast for the eyes when at more family-oriented chain restaurants, however.

And now, the "sexy server outfit" -- high heels, tight skirts and heavy makeup -- may violate Canada's employee human rights codes, according to experts.

The CBC investigated dress codes at several of Canada's top chain restaurants where they were told by women servers that they felt pressured to wear revealing outfits or fear losing shifts.

The dress is so tight that you can see your underwear through it. Servers are encouraged to not wear underwear at all in order to avoid this.
— Anonymous server

Another waitress said she frequently got "unwanted attention that kind of comes with the outfits that we were wearing." Another said she was told she "needed to show more skin" when she was just a 17-year-old waitress.

Yikes.

 Forcing women to wear short skirts and other revealing outfits is sexual discrimination, according to Canada lawyers.

Canadian human right codes state that employers can't discriminate against individuals based on their sex. According to Joanne St. Lewis, a law professor for University of Ottawa, forcing women to wear revealing outfits is exactly that.

It is sex discrimination. I have no doubt about it. The male employees are doing exactly the same task as the female employees. And they do not need to sexualize their clothing. That’s the bottom line.
— Joanne St. Lewis, Canadian law professor

Trading places

Male servers at Ottawa restaurant Union Local 613 decided to walk a mile in their female counterparts' high heels after the CBC report was released. They donned miniskirts and high heels to show solidarity for women who are pressured to dress sexy on the job.

If this is what women have to deal with in days or weeks or years of working in restaurants, or wherever they’re working, then I can’t even really imagine that, actually. It’s kind of tough.
— James Tilden, busser, Union Local 613
 Photo from  CBC News

Photo from CBC News

The men lasted only a couple of hours before tapping out of the clothing. Physical discomfort aside, the men talked about feeling "vulnerable" and "uncomfortable" while they worked.

I walked downstairs, and it was a couple people we know in the industry and I won’t use their names. They shut up pretty quick when they realized I was [wearing a microphone], but they kind of grabbed me or whatnot ... and I was like dude, do you get what we’re [doing]?
— Ivan Gedz, Union Local 613 co-owner
Guys were making comments, jokingly of course, because that’s what we were going for — to show light to it — but even those jokes that they were making were, after a while, still very uncomfortable to be faced with.
— Tristan Bragaglia-Murdock, Union Local 613 server

The male servers noted that what they went through isn't exactly what it's like for women in the industry, they now have a better understanding of what it feels like to be in the "center of attention" because of one's clothes and body.

It's about choice

Both owners of Union Local 613 acknowledged that the "sexy server" outfit is perfectly fine if the server chooses that's the outfit she wants to work in. It shouldn't, however, be required.

If a woman chooses to dress like this, she’s made that choice and she’s going to feel comfortable doing it. I guess I’ve made this choice to a degree, but I wouldn’t be making this choice tomorrow. I can tell you that.
— Ivan Gedz, co-owner, Union Local 613

Earls, one of Canada's top restaurant chains, has already changed it's dress policy, clarifying that women can choose to wear a skirt or pants. Previously, the dress code was worded that the woman server needed to request permission to wear pants instead of a skirt.

Although our female service staff have a choice in what they wear, we understand that even our suggested dress code could be considered discriminatory as, although pants are allowed on request, the current suggested dress code is a black skirt, no shorter than one inch above the knee for women, where we should be wording our suggested dress code as a black skirt, no shorter than one inch above the knee or a straight cut plain black pant.
— Earls press release

What are your thoughts about women servers and required sexy dress codes? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.


Waitress legs image by Chris Goldberg

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