Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Sexist dress codes and the OHS perils of breastaurants

A few weeks ago, several major chain restaurants came under scrutiny for sexist dress codes. Basically female servers were expected to wear sexualized clothing (such as that pictured to the right). The servers' comments about their employers' dress codes were pretty scathing.
"The dress is so tight that you can see your underwear through it," says a current employee of Joey Restaurants, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job. 
"I was often told that I needed to show more skin. I was 17 years old. No 17-year-old should be getting in trouble for not showing enough skin," another woman said.
Earl’s responded to this negative publicity by modifying its dress code to allow female servers to wear pants (wow--way to jump into 1980, Earl's!). While many online commentators have been dismissive of this issue, there s good research to suggest that restaurants that sexualize female servers are causing them harm.

A 2015 study entitled “Linking Sexually Objectifying Work Environments among Waitresses to Psychological and Job-Related Outcomes” examined the work health effects of women who work in restaurants that require female servers to wear revealing or body-accenting clothing.

These restaurants, called “breastaurants” in the article, create environments where the servers are sexually objectified as part of their work. The sexualization occurs in the hiring selection process (picking stereotypically “attractive” women), mandated uniform requirements (tight-fitting or revealing clothing), and regulated behaviour toward customers (expectations of flirtatious friendliness).

The study, a survey of 300 waitresses, finds servers in these types of restaurant experience greater rates of unwanted comments and sexual advances than workers in other restaurants. It also finds the work environment results in negative psychological and vocational health outcomes, such as an increased incidence of depression arising from feelings of powerlessness, ambivalence, and self-blame.

This study is one that Jason Foster and I examine in our forthcoming textbook (Health and safety in Canadian workplaces) as an example of psychosocial hazards and how employer choices about the structure of employment can give rise to harm.

-- Bob Barnetson

No comments:

Post a Comment