A Perth nightclub owner has been forced to apologise after demanding that female staff wear low cut tight fitting uniforms, or face the sack.
David Heaton, owner of the Amplifer Capitol nightclub in Northbridge in Perth, said the threat was a “throwaway comment” after details of the dress code went viral on social media.
The controversy began when duty manager Arthur Rafel posted a message to staff reminding them of the venue’s dress code:
“To our amazing bar ladies, as we have been busy raising the dress code on our doors, our focus is now shifting to bars – one thing that has slipped for a while is the tolerance of girls wearing the men’s uniform shirt while on bar.
“From next week I will be taking your men’s shirt back from you and replacing it with the ladies bar uniform shirt.
“Let’s work together to get the dress code back to how it should be. This is compulsory.”
The shirts for female staff have a low cut scoop neck which shows the cleavage of some employees, whereas the men’s uniform shirt have a high neck.
After he got wind of some complaints from staff, Mr Heaton added this warning:
“As a condition of your employment, the team member is required to wear the uniform. If you don’t feel comfortable in the uniform then you are welcome to find employment elsewhere.”
The backlash was swift, with staff leaking the messages on social media, and posting comments of their own.
“Forcing our female staff members to wear low cut shirts that expose their cleavage while male staff members are not subject to such objectification is blatant sexism and totally ludicrous,” one wrote.
“We receive enough sexual harassment as it is working in the nightclub industry and pushing such a ridiculous dress code puts your female employees in danger.
“This action, and the disregard of employees expressing their discomfort over the appointed women’s uniforms shows how little Capitol Corp values their female employees.
“Surely there are alternatives to a more presentable uniform standard that doesn’t involve using our bodies as selling points.”
Activist Clementine Ford re-posted the comments to her social media, and urged her followers to contact their union if they had the same experience.
“I hope all the women who work at this sexist dump quit in protest and no women ever choose to work there again,” she wrote.
“Except of course that won’t happen, because women need to work and that’s how sexist management creeps like this get away with this shit. Call your union!”
In a full statement posted on the nightclub’s Facebook, Mr Heaton said he “unreservedly apologised” for the comments and said the response had been a valuable lesson for management.
“The proposed changes were made in poor judgement, without full consideration of the implications for our female staff,” he said.
“There was a lack of awareness and understanding of the ways in which these new uniforms may be viewed, and how staff may feel wearing them.
“Comments that female staff already face sexual harassment as part of working within the nightclub industry, and that these uniform changes would only exacerbate the issue, have resonated with us.
“We take the concerns uttered by all affected staff – and our many patrons – incredibly seriously.
“We care, respect and value our female staff deeply and wish to apologise to them directly for making them feel uncomfortable, disrespected or devalued by the proposed changes.
“Quite simply, we’re sorry.”
Mr Heaton said staff could wear whichever shirt they felt comfortable in, so long as the were not so baggy as to cause an occupational safety risk.
“This event has highlighted the need for more sensitivity and understanding on our part regarding gender equality and we will make more considered decisions going forward,” he said.
“We see this as an opportunity to address larger issues of safety, comfort and equality within our venues and have learned a valuable, if not overdue, lesson.”
What the law says
George Calderon, lawyer and seconded consultant from Discrimination Claims, said it is unlawful to treat someone unfairly because of their sex.
“Sex discrimination happens when a person is treated less favourably than a person of a different sex would be treated in the same or similar circumstances,” he said.
“So, if female employees are being forced to wear a more revealing uniform and the guys are not, then they could possibly have a claim of unlawful discrimination,” he said.
“And that’s not all – if a business makes its female staff wear sexualised uniforms, they could also open themselves up to claims of sexual harassment.”
According to one U.S. study, researchers found that rates of sexual harassment were higher in restaurants and bars that required men and women to wear different uniforms.
“Businesses have a legal obligation to provide a safe work environment for their employees, so if they are exposing young women to blatant sexual harassment from patrons, then they are liable,” Mr Calderon said.
“In the case of the Perth nightclub, it seems some public shaming has made management see the error of their ways, and I’m glad to see some common sense prevail.”
READ MORE: What is discrimination
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If you have experienced discrimination based on your sex or gender, you may be entitled to compensation.
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1300 853 837
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