WATCH: After Global News reported claims that Moxie’s servers were forced to wear high heels at work, young women from two other restaurant chains have come forward with similar complaints.
CALGARY – After Global News reported claims that Moxie’s servers were forced to wear high heels at work, young women from two other restaurant chains have come forward with similar complaints.
Heather Turgeon began waitressing at Original Joe’s in April 2013, but Friday is her last shift at the chain’s Quarry Park location in southeast Calgary.
“It’s been really uncomfortable,” said Turgeon, about a high heel policy she claims was introduced two weeks ago.
“It’s been hard because when you try to voice your opinion to management, they say they can’t argue with the owners; it’s what the owners want.”
FranWorks Group of Companies, the parent company of Original Joe’s, said in a statement the restaurant does “not require our staff to wear heels.” An email from the company directed Global News to the appearance standards policy, which says in part, “All black, polishable, closed heel and toe shoe with structure. Shoes with structure can be slip ons or wedges with at least a one inch rise. …Flat ballet style shoes do not have support and are dangerous in a restaurant setting and therefore not allowed.”
Scroll down to read the full statement
Turgeon claims that when a coworker brought in a doctor’s note which advised against the use of heels, management said: “If you can’t wear the uniform then you can’t work.” She claims all of her coworker’s shifts were taken away, and “she was not allowed to work until she could wear heels again.”
When asked specifically about the claims of the doctor’s note, a statement provided by FranWorks said the company stands by its previous statement:
“We were not aware of this situation and would consider it an isolated incident. We are currently investigating the situation.”
The effects of wearing high heels for long periods of time are potentially long-lasting, warn podiatrists, raising health and safety concerns for women.
“I ended up losing feeling in my big toes and haven’t regained some of that feeling,” said Christie Florence, who was a waitress at the Boston Pizza in Okotoks in 2014.
A Boston Pizza statement says that there is no such policy on high heels, and that they “encourage comfortable closed-toe dress shoes.”
Contrary to Boston Pizza’s statement, Florence said that she did not have a choice in footwear.
“I was required at Boston Pizza to wear one to two-inch heels at all times, whether working in the lounge or the family restaurant side,” she said.
Florence claims she was told that “the higher the heels, the better the tips.” She believes that the choice to wear heels should be up to each server.
“It certainly should be a choice whether a server wants to sacrifice her comfort for better tips.”
Legal teams that specialize in workplaces issues say if they exist, high heel policies could be considered discriminatory, sexist and exploitative–enough grounds for a lawsuit.
“I think an employer is going to have a difficult time saying that high heel shoes are a bona fide occupational requirement,” said Sawers McFarlane Barristers & Solicitors lawyer Paula Kay. “I think it’s probably going to make you less efficient at your work…carrying food and drinks around to tables.”
Kay said if a doctor’s note was denied, it could be considered discrimination based on disability.
“If you have somebody who cannot physically wear high heels because of a health problem or a physical ailment…the employer has to accommodate that employee unless they are unable to do so, because it is again, something that’s required in the workplace,” said Kay.
Boston Pizza’s director of communications, Perry Schwartz, sent the specific section of the Boston Pizza Uniform Policy she said was shared with each franchisee and its staff:
“Black leather or polishable dress shoes with a rubber non-slip sole are required. Sandals, clogs, open toes, sling backs or shoes with canvas may not be worn.”
The safety of our staff and guests is of utmost importance to us. For that reason, we do not allow our servers to wear open-toed, high-heel shoes and encourage comfortable closed-toe dress shoes that allow the staff to be safe and mobile at all times.”
The parent company of Original Joe’s, FranWorks Group of Companies, sent this statement:
“We do not require our staff to wear heels. The health and safety of our staff and guests is of the utmost concern and our policies reflect that priority. For more information on FranWorks’ Appearance Standards policy please see below:
Watch below: Social media reaction to Global’s original story on claims from Moxie’s staff
With files from Stefan Keyes and Erika Tucker