An Edmonton woman has given her JOEY restaurant serving job the boot over a bloody high heel argument.
“My friend’s feet were bleeding to the point she lost a toe nail and she was still discouraged and berated by the shift manager for changing into flats,” Nicola Gavins wrote on Facebook on behalf of her unidentified friend, who resigned from the downtown location following the incident.
We reached out to Gavins but hadn’t heard back by the time of publishing.
She also accused the chain of making its female staff purchase a $30 dress uniform “while male staff can dress themselves in black clothing from their own closets,” and for not paying its staff for training.
Her criticism of the restaurant chain’s “sexist, archaic requirements” was shared more than 10,000 times over the past week.
Of the hundreds who commented on the post, a couple questioned the validity of the accusations, saying the socks looked more wine-stained than blood-soaked.
The vast majority, though, expressed outrage over the situation. And a few were less than surprised by it.
A former JOEY hostess recalled being told in 2007 that she’d only get promoted to a server if she “lost weight and got hotter.”
“‘Oh ya after like six months of running around in heels, you’ll really slim down,'” she claimed to have been told. “Keep in mind the most I ever weighed was 125 pounds.”
As for getting “hotter,” that apparently involved her hair being longer.
“It was a disgusting and degrading place to work,” she wrote. She told Global News she experienced the same policies at two locations.
Other past and present employees stood up for the chain, though, which was recently named one of the top 20 best places to work in Canada and “one of the great places to work for women for 2016.”
Amanda Dickson, who served there for three years, denied ever being forced to wear heels. “We were required to wear black shoes. That’s it,” she wrote on the thread, adding this may have been an issue with a local manager.
Gavins replied with a photo that appeared to be from a JOEY training manual. It said women’s shoes “must have a minimum of a one-inch heel.”
Not the first time
Similar situations have played out at a number of restaurants, including Moxie’s in Calgary.
Despite Moxie’s management denying any high heel requirement, its server guidelines Global News obtained last summer stipulated a minimum 1.5-inch sleek heel was required.
In Toronto, the Shark Club used a “how to feel comfortable in high heels” explainer, advising female servers to wear a certain kind of three-inch heel.
Women from the Original Joe’s and Boston Pizza chains came forward with similar complaints of being forced to wear heels following our reports on Moxie’s.
A Calgary Original Joe’s server even claimed her doctor’s note was denied when she tried to get out of wearing high heels at work. She said she was in so much pain after her shift that she couldn’t stand.
Health experts have repeatedly cautioned women about the negative impacts of wearing high heels.
“Chronic high heel use can affect the ankles, the knees, the low-back, the hips,” chiropractor Stacia Kelly told us last year.
What JOEY has to say
In an emailed statement to Global News, JOEY’s VP of marketing, Britt Innes, explained there had been a change in footwear policy in March in response to all the recent attention on dress code in the service industry.
“We conducted audits and sent out a survey to get our partners’ anonymous insights and feedback. The major learning from our partners was that they wanted a change in our shoe guidelines,” she said.
“We made these changes and rolled this out in late March. However, it is clear that it did not reach every partner and I take ownership for that. In retrospect, we should have ensured all outdated training materials were destroyed.”
She sent the image below of the chain’s current shoe guidelines.
“Under this guide, [female servers] choose what is comfortable for them. There is no minimum height when it comes to our shoe policy.”
The company is also considering a change to its dress code, according to Innes. It’s currently a black dress for women but may eventually become a T-shirt and jeans for both males and females. That uniform is being tested at select locations.
Innes added that she reached out to the employee as soon as she saw the Facebook post. A company-wide memo was sent out to as well, to ensure everyone’s on the same page around the new policies and guidelines.
With files from Vassy Kapelos, Global News