Although high heeled shoes can certainly look great, wearing
them for a long period of time can cause pain and discomfort, as
many women know. For employers, particularly in certain
industries such as the hospitality industry, this is an issue that
shouldn't be overlooked.
According to workplace studies, high proportions of women
working in the restaurant industry report that they have tripped,
slipped, or fallen while at work, with many of them reporting that
they have suffered injuries because of falls while wearing high
heels. It is important for employers to consider the health
and safety ramifications of high heels in their workplaces, and to
seek legal advice where appropriate in respect of applicable
occupational health and safety legislation.
However, discomfort and workplace safety are not the only
potential problems facing employers. Though rarely express
and in writing, some workplaces may implement policies which
require high heels. Such policies may raise issues relating
to human rights legislation. The British Columbia Human
Rights Tribunal noted in a 2010 decision that different treatment
and expectations of male and female employees, including
sexually-based dress code requirements, if proven, may expose an
employer to a claim of discrimination.
There can be no question that appearance and presentation of
employees can be a legitimate and important part of an
employer's business operations. The Alberta Human Rights
Commission, for example, has stated in a 2013 information sheet
that an employer has "the right to establish the appearance,
grooming, and dress standards that they believe are necessary for
the safe or effective conduct of their business". But
there are limits on these rights, and potential pitfalls, which may
warrant consultation with legal counsel.
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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