A NEW LOOK AT WORKPLACE LAW AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF AN EMPLOYMENT LAWYER AND FORMER JOURNALIST. FIT FOR EMPLOYERS, EMPLOYEES, AND EVERYONE IN BETWEEN

#DressLikeAWoman. Or...you know...don't...

#DressLikeAWoman. Or...you know...don't...

The reports stemming from White House sources as of late are so disorienting, it has become difficult, and at times impossible thanks to the President’s own social media contributions, to separate fact from fiction. 

However, political commentary aside, one recent report seemed a perfect fit for this blog. In a recent article on the website Axios (a byproduct of Politico), an unnamed source from the Trump campaign says there is an edict flowing from the President that the women who work for him should “dress like women.”

While the article also states that the President apparently also has a preference for his male staff wearing certain menswear designers, the source said that even women in the campaign who mostly knocked on doors “felt pressure to wear dresses to impress Trump.” 

My personal estimation of the President's new vision of White House swimwear (photo c. 1908)

My personal estimation of the President's new vision of White House swimwear (photo c. 1908)

While the source and article are unconfirmed, the internet proceeded to have a field day, with social media a flurry of photos of female athletes, astronauts, law enforcement officials, laboratory researchers, military personnel and so on in order to prove that women cannot be defined or restricted in their manner of dress.

I will make no comment on US law, although from a human rights perspective alone the directive is at the very least questionable. In Ontario though, while such a policy would be uncommon today, it would also represent a clear violation of Ontario’s Human Rights Code (the “Code”).

Ontario’s Human Rights Commission (the “OHRC”) dealt specifically with this issue last Spring, at a time when Canadian news was rife with incidents of discriminatory workplace dress codes, most notably in the bar and restaurant industry. 

In a policy position released at that time, the OHRC reminded employers that they could institute a dress code, so long as it did not run afoul of the Code or its discrimination provisions. As the OHRC states, “An employer should be prepared to prove that any sex-based differences in the dress code are legitimately linked to the requirements of the job. Where this cannot be shown, these dress codes will be discriminatory. “ In this fashion (pardon any pun), a policy such as above that required women to only wear dresses, while men had the additional option of wearing pants, would be discriminatory. 

A proposed dress code such as the President’s would be contrary to the Code’s provisions on gender identity and gender expression as well. With recent additions in the last decade, gender identity and expression are now protected human rights grounds in employment in Ontario, and transgender individuals are allowed to express their lived gender identity. The federal government is working on enacting similar protections nationwide. 

In other words, an employee who may be biologically male but who presents as female is allowed to, in the words above, ‘dress like a woman.’ Similarly, a biologically female employee who presents as male cannot, and must not, be required to wear exclusively clothing that represents their biological gender. 

For some employers, this may admittedly be a learning curve. Transgender rights and issues have only recently come to the forefront, and many employers will be faced with these issues for the first time. However, the best protections are a neutral wardrobe policy that does not separate employees based on sex, gender, religion, disability, or any of the other grounds protected under the Code. 

For employers, designing a customized policy that fits your business may take some adjustment, but the initiative can be seen as a preventative measure that may avoid future claims of human rights discrimination from your workplace. Contact us today for help bringing your office policies in line with the latest standards in human rights.

For employees, discrimination in the workplace is never acceptable. If your employer is unwilling to resolve a troublesome uniform policy, contact us today to learn more about how you can proceed legally to protect your human rights in the workplace. 

The bottom line, well, this Twitter user dropped the proverbial mic better than I ever could

 

Honoured to be among The Lucky Few

Honoured to be among The Lucky Few

It's #BellLetsTalk Day, So Let's Start Talking

It's #BellLetsTalk Day, So Let's Start Talking