Revealing uniform, better service?
According to the Ontario government, waitresses should not be expected to dress in a sexualized way to attract clients. But restaurants think otherwise.
Short skirts and low-cut tops – an outfit that the ex-waitress Kristine Artates, 23, used to wear on the job. As a customer watches the sports game with his wife, Artates walks towards and leans over the table to hand them their menus. It did not impress the wife. In fact, it pissed her off since Artates accidentally revealed her cleavage in front of the husband’s face. Once the couple finished dinner, they paid the bill and the wife left a descriptive message on the receipt saying that she “didn’t appreciate breasts being exposed” in her husband’s face.
This is a situation Artates often encountered on the job. She worked throughout her post-secondary career in retail and restaurants to support herself and her studies.
Working at a sports bar meant Artates had to wear a short, revealing uniform. “You don’t really get an option of what to wear, though in the winter you have the option to wear leggings instead of a mini skirt,” Artates said. “However, in the summer you’re required to wear your skirt and you have the option to wear your tank top or a T-shirt.” The mini skirt has shorts underneath and the top has a very low V-cut.
However, such incidences don’t just happen in sports bars. Masha Vojinovic, 21, works at a high-end dining restaurant where she doesn’t wear a short uniform, but rather wears a “date-ready”, black dress or jean/top attire with a one-inch heel or a flat shoe.
According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “female employees should not be expected to meet more difficult requirements than male employees, and they should not be expected to dress in a sexualized way to attract clients.” The dress code that’s put in place needs to prove that these sex-based differences are reasonably linked to the requirements of the job. If this can’t be shown, the dress codes will be considered discriminatory.
Vojinovic says the length of restaurant dresses really depend on the waitress’s height. She struggled with the dress length because she is short and petite. Her management team requested Masha to tailor the dress (the restaurant pays for it), so it meets the length requirement.
As a hostess, she was required to wear a grey, office-like, fitted dress.
But the waitresses brush it off, which Vojinovic thinks is the biggest problem at her work environment.
Because Artates works in a completely different setting, her uniform skirt is made out of spandex and rides up consistently when she walks. There was no way to avoid the issue because management implemented the rule. Artates says that if you worked behind the bar at the restaurant you’re required to wear “club-like attire”.
“Some women seem to be offended to see waitresses in these uniforms because they thought we were trying to pick up their husbands,” Artates said.
On Vojinovic’s end, she had one memorable, yet negative experience to share. “We had a wealthy regular that used to dine here all the time and he felt like he could talk to the girls however he wanted,” she said.
Vojinovic declined the offer and the customer laughed about the situation.
The high-end dining restaurant recently implemented new uniforms, according to Vojinovic. She says they’re trying to make the uniforms less sexualized, which has improved by a lot. “The new uniform is more appropriate because you can wear a turtleneck top with black jeans and you have the option to wear a black crewneck dress that doesn’t reveal your boobs,” she said.
She made the decision to purchase the two new uniforms, which ended up costing her over $200.
Artates says it’s important to wear a uniform in order to be easily identified by customers. However, she believes women should have more freedom to choose what they wear as their uniform outfits, like having the option to wear dress pants. “They are starting to implement [the dress pants] now, but that’s only because people have been complaining.”