Report reaffirms commitment to non-sexualized staff dress codes

TORONTO, Ont. — The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) issued a new report outlining the commitments made by many Ontario’s restaurant chains to eliminate discriminatory dress codes for restaurant staff on March 8. Not on the Menu: Inquiry Report on Sexual and Gender-Based Dress Codes in Ontario’s Restaurants, which highlights findings from an inquiry into dress codes at certain restaurants operating across the province, was released to coincide with International Women’s Day. Following the OHRC’s Policy Position on Sexualized and Gender-Based Dress Codes, publicized one year ago, the OHRC wrote to the companies and informed them about dress-code concerns and obligations under the Human Rights Code. A statement from the OHRC reveals that the responses from companies were “encouraging,” with all of them either developing new policies or amending existing ones. In general, companies expressed support for addressing dress codes, sexual harassment and other human-rights concerns in their workplaces. While changing policies is a good first step, the OHRC encourages companies to take the next step by putting these policies into practice on the ground and making sure that employees have the opportunity to bring forward complaints if they believe their rights have been violated. “People who work in restaurants can be vulnerable to sexual harassment and discrimination because of the precarious nature of their work,” OHRC chief commissioner Renu Mandhane said. “After the release of our policy position, we decided to take the extra step of reaching out to restaurants, because we heard that workers often didn’t feel empowered to raise their concerns due to fear of reprisal.” The OHRC has developed tools to help establishments comply with the Policy Position and remove discriminatory barriers created by some dress codes, the statement added.

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