A young woman arrived at work on her first day as a temp
receptionist all bright and enthusiastic. She was wearing smart
business clothes, but when the supervisor saw that she was wearing
flat shoes he ordered her to leave and come back in high heels.
The young woman said she didn't own any high heels, so the
supervisor said she would have to go out and buy a pair with heels
two to four inches before she could start work. She refused and was
sent home without pay.
The woman posted the incident on social media, questioning how
high heels improved her ability to do her job, and argued she would
be able to do her job better if she was able to walk properly.
Her temp work dried up. She started a petition to make it
illegal to force women to wear high heels at work. More than 30,000
people signed it within weeks.
This incident happened recently in London, but Stacks Law Firm
employment law expert Nathan Luke said in Australia the incident
could amount to a breach of the law covering sex discrimination in
"She could argue that men aren't forced to wear high
heels at work so it would be discrimination if an employer forced
only women to wear high heels," Mr Luke said.
"People might also have medical or religious reasons why
they can't wear high heels, so a blanket policy requiring women
to wear high heels and taking disciplinary action against someone
who refuses to wear them could be discriminatory."
Australia doesn't have specific workplace dress code laws,
but employers are entitled to have a reasonable, non-discriminatory
"Employers certainly can insist on standards of clothing
and appearance such as hair length and piercings working near
machinery to satisfy health and safety requirements.
"But employers can require workers to present a
professional appearance that complies with their company image in
"For instance if you are working in sales in a fashion shop
your boss wouldn't want you wearing trackie dacks and
"But if an employer insists on a worker wearing tight or
revealing clothes it is a different matter. The employer needs to
state clearly what is expected in clothing standards before a
person accepts the job.
"Employers have been fined for unfair dismissal when they
sacked men who grew beards. They hadn't stipulated beards were
out," Mr Luke said.
Employees who feel they have been unfairly treated should get
expert legal advice. Equally, employers should make sure they know
their legal position from an employment law specialist.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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An employee that refused a reasonable offer of settlement was ordered by the FWC to pay his ex-employer's legal costs.
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