‘It’s a human rights issue’: Women fight for the right to be braless on the job


The “blacken your bra” movement is back, this time ignited by young ladies shunning the undergarment not for political reasons, but in the name of comfort. 

However, some braless mates feel discomfort when managers mandate they must clothing one in the workplace — a rule that could be deemed discriminatory, because it only devotes to one gender.

“It’s unnecessary,” said Kate Gosek who works as a cook at McDonald’s in Selkirk, Man. The 19-year-old replies several managers recently harassed her about not wearing a bra, including one who elbowed her shoulder in search of one.

“She just told me that I should put on a bra because, McDonald’s — we are a diplomatic restaurant and no one needs to see that.”

'It's a human rights issue': Women fight for the right to be braless on the job

Some employers want women to deterioration a bra in the workplace, although that rule could be deemed discriminatory because it barely applies to one gender. (Getty Images)

Whether or not employers can mandate a lass’s undergarments is now the subject of a case before the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal. A hark to date has not been set yet. 

It was prompted by a complaint from Christina Schell who alleges her previous employer — the Osoyoos Golf Club in Osoyoos, B.C. — segregated against her by requiring that female staff wear a bra.

“It’s gender-based and that’s why it’s a Possibly manlike rights issue,” she said. “I have nipples and so do the men.”

For her protection?

Schell get rid ofed her bras more than two years ago because she finds them uncomfortable.

“They’re frightening,” said the 25-year-old who took a job as a server at the golf club’s restaurant in May.

She indicates she had no inkling being braless was an issue until a few weeks later when she inherited the restaurant’s new dress code. It stated: “Women must wear either a tank top or bra subsumed under their uniform shirt.”

Because she served tables at an outdoor patio in hot ride out, Schell had no desire to wear an undershirt, either.

“It was absurd,” she said. “Why do you get to dictate what’s underneath my duds?”

'It's a human rights issue': Women fight for the right to be braless on the job

Christina Schell’s employer required that she wear a bra or tanktop beneath this uniform shirt. She refused to comply. (submitted by Christina Schell)

Schell confronted the golf company’s general manager, Doug Robb, and said he told her the rule was for her patronage.

“He said, ‘I know what happens in golf clubs when hard stuff’s involved.'”

Schell refused to comply, and said she was fired as a result. That prompted her to enter a human rights complaint. 

Robb declined to comment, stating in an email that worker matters are confidential.

'It's a human rights issue': Women fight for the right to be braless on the job

Nadia Zaman, an employment lawyer, says gender-based outfit codes could cause problems for employers. (submitted by Nadia Zaman)

Hiring lawyer, Nadia Zaman, said employers can impose a gender-specific accoutre code, if they can show there’s a genuine occupational requirement, such as for shelter reasons.

She questions how requiring an employee to wear a bra can fall into that section.

“If they simply require that female employees wear a bra but then they don’t secure a similar requirement for males, and they can’t really justify that … then there is a gamble that their policy’s going to be deemed to be discriminatory,” Zaman whispered.

She refers to the Ontario Human Rights Commission which, following a 2016 CBC Good copy Marketplace investigation, called for an end to sexist dress codes — such as consequential heels and short skirts — which only apply to female workforce.

“They’re basically saying that sexual harassment and gender-based array codes are off the menu, and they’re no longer being tolerated,” said Zaman from the undeviating Rudner Law in Toronto.

‘An expectation’

Gosek, the McDonald’s employee, also deems she has the right to be braless in the workplace, despite instructions from managers to drain one.

She said one manager advised her to put one on, while looking at her chest.

“She told me they’re distracting.”

Gosek required when she pointed out to another manager that the McDonald’s dress system says nothing about wearing a bra, he replied, “‘No, but it is an expectation.'”

'It's a human rights issue': Women fight for the right to be braless on the job

McDonald’s said Kate Gosek hasn’t contravened any rules by refusing to wear a bra at work. (Associated Press)

Gosek also gets bras uncomfortable and says the pressure to wear one at work made her eager.

“I’m a really good worker but all of this is making me look like a bad human being.”

McDonald’s Canada clarified that the dress code policy doesn’t call for Gosek to wear a bra.

Spokesperson, Laura Munzar said in an email that Gosek’s turmoils were the result of “a misunderstanding in the application of the policy” and that the restaurant desire inform her she’s not breaking any rules.

Gosek said she received an apology this week from two superiors at act on.

As for Schell, she’s still waiting for the outcome of her human rights complaint to see out if wearing a bra in her case was a justifiable work requirement.

“It doesn’t affect anybody’s adeptness to do their job,” she said.

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