Ontario Might Ban Mandatory High Heels at Work

Mandatory high heels in workplaces could soon be illegal in Ontario.

Cristina Martins, an Ontario Liberal MPP, introduced a private member’s bill today in an effort to ban the sexist practice that is most often put in place at restaurants and bars.

“These dress codes are and always have been gendered and only women are expected to risk their personal safety to meet these unfair dress codes,” Martins told reporters at Queen’s Park.

Currently, Martins said, safe footwear requirements are too focused on certain fields of work, such as the healthcare industry. The bill she introduced would mean workplaces across the province could not enforce policy that requires employees to wear unsafe footwear.

“This is not a new issue,” Martins said. “I have staff that have worked in the food and hospitality sector and have experienced first-hand, or witnessed first-hand, colleagues having to wear high heels and undergoing foot pain and injuries.”

In 2016, an Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) policy position paper addressed the high-heel issue, as well as other gendered dress codes in workplaces, including requirements for short skirts, tight clothing, and low-cut tops.

“Sexualized and gender-specific dress codes are all too common in some restaurants and bars, and can be found in other services,” the ORHC paper stated. “Whether in formal policy or informal practice, they contribute to an unwelcome and discriminatory employment environment for women.”

British Columbia banned forcing women to wear high heels at work earlier this year.

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