Boston Pizza accused of sexism for asking female staff to wear skirts


The restaurant backtracked shortly after the union puts out a press release protesting the policy

Article content

Women working at the Boston Pizza on Columbia Street in New Westminster were told last week they must wear skirts to work, something that doesn’t sit well with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

“Boston Pizza franchise owners have implemented a skirt policy that is not only sexist, it objectifies women in their workplace,” said Local 1518 president Kim Novak. “We are calling on Boston Pizza to ensure that none of their locations ever institutes sexist dress-code policies again.”

After the union put out a news release, the company told workers at the New West Boston Pizza on Monday that they have the option to wear trousers again, Novak said.

Workers at the New West restaurant and sports bar began voting virtually on whether to join the union on Tuesday. Results will be known by week’s end.

There have long been complaints from female restaurant and bar staff, who have been ordered to wear clothes such as high heels and tight skirts that sexualize them. Five years ago, for instance, Earl’s changed its dress code after CBC’s Marketplace aired a story.

Article content

The Boston Pizza manual for employees states that the dress code is based on customers’ perceptions, employee comfort and safety, and health and safety legislation. For “heart-of-house” uniforms, black full-length non-denim pants are OK, but for “front-of-house” workers such as servers and greeters, the manual says a black dress skirt is mandatory, with no option for wearing slacks (even for men, if you read it literally).

Particularly galling, Novak said, is the New West restaurant announced the skirt rule on International Women’s Day. “Unfortunately, (this issue) has popped up again and this one was particularly surprising to us because it was so recent, it was just implemented on March 8.”

Until then, female upfront staff had been allowed to wear black slacks.

The manager at the New West location directed a reporter’s inquiries to the Richmond head office, which did not respond by deadline.

On Monday the company released a statement saying the dress code was “miscommunicated” to staff after that particular franchise had a change in ownership.

“Ultimately why we wanted to bring this forward isn’t just for the people at this location, it’s also to ensure these types of sexist policies aren’t popping up in other Boston Pizza locations, and across the restaurant industry as a whole,” Novak said.

“We wanted to be sure we were (publicizing) that this is not OK to create these types of policies that insist on skirts only. Overall in the restaurant industry, we want to make sure women feel safe bringing these issues forward and not feeling the ramifications of it and not being out there in a vulnerable position on their own.”