Dress codes can’t impact one gender more than another

Imagine you’re at work—it’s been a long day and you’re tired, when suddenly your manager pulls you aside to tell you that you have to wear a bra while on shift. Your response would probably be incredulity and shock, but that was the situation that a server at an East Side Mario’s in Timmins, Ontario faced earlier this month.

Asking an employee who identifies as a woman to wear a bra is obviously against their rights, let’s just get that out of the way right now. The Ontario Human Rights Council states that no employees can be asked to wear a different uniform solely because of their gender. There can be a difference in uniform for safety reasons but otherwise all employees must be able to wear the same uniform.

Ontario Human Rights Council aside, it turns out that wearing a bra isn’t even part of the dress code policy at East Side Mario’s. This means that even if it wasn’t discriminatory for the manager to ask that she wear a bra, it’s still out of their purview.

The manager claimed she was asking the employee to wear a bra because it made some customers uncomfortable. This is a relatively ridiculous level of appeasing customers. The server wasn’t juggling flaming torches or sneezing into food—she just wasn’t wearing a bra under her uniform black t-shirt. You have to wonder how uncomfortable these people are walking around in case they run into other women who choose to not wear a bra.

This is another example of how those in authority feel they can control what women can do and how they can act. Our society’s notions of what is acceptable to ask of women are drastically different than what we ask of men, and this is case is evidence of those differences. Making money is never an excuse to treat one group differently than another, and yet managers continue to feel they can determine what employees do with their bodies.

The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal heard a case that required female servers at a club to wear bikini tops, while men had no restrictions or requirements. Those who identify as women working in the hospitality industry are routinely asked to operate under different conditions than men.

While asking female employees to wear a bra isn’t the same as asking that they wear more revealing uniforms than their male counterparts, it is still a discriminatory request. These requests are made even more discriminatory when it’s not a part of a business’ dress code, and managers feel entitled to control their employees bodies.