Mandatory high heels for restaurant workers in Alberta should be banned, according to one Edmonton restaurant owner who hopes the government moves to make mandatory changes.
“I would love to see change and to protect these women’s feet. Because when you’re young and you’re ambitious and you’ve got this exciting new job at this new restaurant, you conform to the rules,” Lisa Caputo said.
Caputo is the owner of Cibo Bistro in downtown Edmonton. She’s worked in the restaurant industry for years, many of those spent working in high heels. Often times, the heeled footwear was mandatory.
“In some restaurants, there is a specific dress code. They do want the girls to all look the same and in uniform,” she explained.
“It was always a skirt, a shirt or a black dress. And, of course, two-inch heels — all day in heels.
“Those heels get very worn out and those feet get very sore.”
Caputo said she’s been heel-free for about eight years now, but has suffered long-term damage to her feet.
“You don’t realize the damage at the time. You take your shoes off at the end of the night, your feet are throbbing, you’ve got blisters, but you don’t think of the damage down the road,” Caputo said.
“They’re stuck in the shape of the heels that I wore for all of those years. My bones are still moving. I feel it in the gym when I do certain exercises that cause me to go up on my toes,” she said. “It’s a constant memory of those years and high heels and having to wear what I had to wear.”
Other Canadian provinces have made changes, banning mandatory high heels as part of dress and uniform codes. Caputo is calling for similar changes in Alberta, and not just for women.
“I’d like to see a change where they say, ‘Comfort is key.’ Because that’s what we do at my restaurant. You’ve got to be comfortable and you’ve got to be safe so you’re not slipping,” she explained.
“I honestly feel that there should be a rule that you should not be allowed to wear high heels or even for the gentlemen, dress shoes for that matter. Safety should come first, so I think it should be a rule that you need to be in comfortable, slip-safe shoes. I would like to see high heels out of everybody’s establishments.”
Alberta Labour Minister Christina Gray recognizes that Caputo’s story is not unique. She said she’s talked to many women in the restaurant industry who have shared similar stories.
“It’s clear that forcing women to wear high heels at work is a bad idea,” Gray said in a statement to Global News.
“Not only do high heels directly cause health problems, they can also become a workplace hazard that can cause serious injury. Women should be able to make their own choice of whether and how often to wear high heels.”
Gray said the government is “actively considering” what it can do. A staffer with the department said it’s in talks with industry and serving staff and will have an update on the issue “very soon.”
Later Thursday afternoon, the Alberta government sent out a media release to say Gray will announce changes to workplace policies around footwear on Friday morning at 10 a.m.