It’s a worker’s choice to show cleavage on the job

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Breasts and thighs might be items on the menu, but that doesn’t include your waitress’ body. 

There’s nothing wrong with showing off your body, but there’s something wrong with being told to do so by your employer. 

Some women choose to show off their bodies because they find it empowering. Others reserve the right to cover theirs. 

In any event, it’s the existence of choice that’s essential. 

For instance, some women may choose not to cram their feet into four-inch heels for an eight-hour shift waiting tables. 

Some women may not want to wear an outfit that exposes them to sexual harassment at their workplace. 

Other women may not want to spend more money than they make in one shift on a required Lululemon skirt, jewelry, heels, makeup and hair products just to meet the required level of sex appeal. 

Yet, these are requirements at many restaurants.

At the core of these dress codes is the assumption that an employer has the right to exploit a woman’s body for its sex appeal, if it adds to the business’ well-being. 

When an employer disproportionately takes advantage of one gender and their sexuality, they’re potentially violating their employees’ human rights. 

We have laws against gender discrimination for a reason: to protect workers from employers who take advantage of them or don’t care if they’re in uncomfortable or threatening situations.

Those without a real understanding of how it feels to be told to wear a miniskirt the size of a handkerchief often ask: if women don’t like those dress codes why don’t they just go work somewhere else? 

But this issue is far more widespread that we often realize — partially because even though gender discrimination in the workplace violates the Ontario Human Rights Code, it’s up to the workers to file a complaint. 

Moreover, it may not occur to many workers that their rights are being violated. We generally accept revealing tops and short skirts as the status quo, in large part because it’s such a widespread practice. 

A CBC Marketplace investigation found that dozens of employees from Moxie’s, Earls, Jack Astor’s and Joey Restaurants said “they felt pressured to wear revealing outfits or risk losing shifts.”

For the 22 per cent of Canadians who say their first job was in the restaurant business, it’s not always an option to just find another job. 

So, the next time you see a restaurant full of scantily-clad female servers take a minute to ask yourself — how would you feel in their high-heeled shoes? 

And maybe don’t spend your money at a business where it’s standard practice to require a miniskirt to be worn when carrying a heavy tray. 

Journal Editorial Board 

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