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CHAUDHRI: As women continue to fight dress codes, equality falls flat




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While some would argue that the world of work is a level playing field for all genders, the point is, we just aren’t there yet.


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Women continue to be besieged by gender stereotypes that continue to tie superficial traits like feminine appearance to the worth of employees.

Take, for example, the recent bikini bottom debacle that forced the Norwegian women’s beach handball team to protest against the requirement for women to wear bikini bottoms when competing.

In a bronze medal match last Sunday against Spain, the team opted to wear shorts instead of the usual bikini bottoms they are forced to wear.

Since their male counterparts are allowed to wear t-shirts and shorts when competing, women who choose to wear shorts shouldn’t have made waves.

Instead, the European Handball Federation (EHF) fined each player 150 euros.

According to the EHF rules and regulations, female athletes must wear bikini bottoms that are fitted and cut at an angle up to the top of the leg.


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Likewise, German gymnasts grabbed the headlines this spring choosing to wear a full bodysuit, which covers the entire leg, rather than a leotard to combat sexualization at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Basel, in Switzerland, April 21.

Sexualized dress codes are not limited to the world of sport.

Employees in the service, hospitality and retail industries have similar stories to tell.

Next to a Radio-Canada market episode in 2016, Earls restaurants in Canada changed their dress code policy which suggested women wear skirts while men could wear pants.

Women were only allowed to wear pants if they requested it. Earls changed his dress code in the wake of public outcry for fairer dress code policies.


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Media attention to this issue led the Ontario Human Rights Commission to send a letter of inquiry in March 2016 to a number of restaurants regarding sexualized and sexist dress codes.

The OHRC’s letter included, in part, employers can have dress codes; however, sexualized and / or gendered dress codes reinforce stereotypical and gendered notions about what women should look like.

When women are fined for not donning a sexualized outfit like the Norwegian handball team, it is evident that in some arenas women are still expected to play the role of submissive and subordinate employees.

To suggest that the women come face to face at the negotiating table with the men is a muffled and absurd tone.

As long as sexualized undertones continue to permeate the workplace, true, genuine equality cannot exist.


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As our economy reopens and employers hire and invite employees back to the workplace, it would be prudent to review workplace policies and practices to ensure that dress codes and other requirements treat employees as well. equally.

Be on the lookout for issues that may affect one group more than others.

For example, family and childcare obligations have a disproportionate impact on women in the workplace. Policies that recognize this will serve your workplace well, increase employee retention, and limit your liability.

Let’s move on to your questions this week:

Q. My supervisor asked me if I am fully immunized before a work trip. I am fully vaccinated but I wonder if he has the right to ask me that?

A. Many workplaces will require employees to be fully immunized before returning to work, meeting clients, and working alongside co-workers. In fact, your employer has a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for all employees, including taking all reasonable steps to limit the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace.


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Q. I am a small business owner and most of my employees still work remotely. Team meetings take place on Zoom. I have an employee who regularly logs in late and when she does the room is dark and the camera is pointed away from her towards a wall until about 20 minutes after the meeting starts. I sincerely believe she wakes up a few minutes before team meetings. It’s not professional. Can i do something? Its performance is also good.

A. Punctuality, attendance and participation in team meetings are integral to employee performance. Schedule a meeting to discuss meeting etiquette with this employee and discuss your concerns as well as the consequences if things don’t improve. Follow up on the conversation with an email recap of the conversation to document that you had it. If you don’t nip this in the bud soon, a bad Zoom etiquette will be seen as an asset in your business and could lead other employees to similarly adopt a laissez-faire approach in meetings, or worse, to lower team morale.

The content of this article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice.

Have a question about the workplace? Maybe I can help! Email me at [email protected] and your question may appear in a future article.



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