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Ontario Human Rights Commission says sexualized dress codes violate human rights

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) has issued a warning to employers that sexist dress codes which require female staff to wear skimpy, revealing outfits as part of the job could be a human rights violation. The OHC issued a policy paper on March 8, to coincide with International Women’s Day, calling for an end to workplace dress codes that discriminate against female and transgender workers.

“Employers must make sure their dress codes don’t reinforce sexist stereotypes,” said Renu Mandhane, the chief commissioner of the OHRC. “They send the message that an employee’s worth is tied to how they look. That’s not right, and it could violate the Ontario Human Rights Code.”

The statement from the OHC was a stern reminder to employers about legislation that has been on the books for many years but is too often ignored – particularly by some restaurant and bar operations where women workers are pressured to dress provocatively.

“It is very positive that the Human Rights Commission has issued this report to raise awareness,” says Debora De Angelis, UFCW Canada’s national co-ordinator for strategic campaigns. “Unions have always fought for the elimination of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, so we applaud the commission.”

“But while the law says workers can refuse a sexist dress code, the reality is that if it is a non-union workplace, they could very well see their hours cutback or their job terminated altogether. So workers also need the ability to stand up for their rights without reprisal,” says Sister De Angelis. “Union membership gives you that strength and advantage.”

You can find out more about the OHRC policy position on gender-specific dress codes here.

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