Ridout Barron


Harassment over mandatory footwear a thing of the past

As from the start of this year, safety authorities in Alberta followed the lead of other provinces in prohibiting business owners and employers from enforcing footwear rules that could be harmful to employees. Women in Alberta workplaces are particularly grateful for this rule that will stop harassment by employers and supervisors to force them to wear high heel shoes. Amendments were made to the Occupational Health and Safety Code that will only allow mandatory footwear for safety purposes, such as steel-tipped safety boots, and not for looks or the company's image.

Female housekeepers, servers and bartenders and other positions -- mostly in the hospitality industry -- have had to risk their health for many years by wearing high heels. The Minister of Labour said that preference must be given to healthy workplaces in which women can work safely without wearing footwear that creates safety hazards. According to the government, prolonged wearing of high heels can cause musculoskeletal disorders and painful feet while also posing slip and trip hazards.

The owner of a bistro says years of mandatory high heel policies have caused severe damage to her feet because it forced all the body weight onto the parts of the feet that is not meant to support it all. She says surgery was her only option to rectify her damaged feet. Employers must provide workplaces free of known hazards, one of which is high heel shoes.

Women in Alberta whose employers continue to subject them to harassment over mandatory footwear have legal recourse available. However, it might be wise to consult with an experienced employment law lawyer before taking any legal steps. A lawyer can assess the circumstances and explain the worker's legal rights before suggesting the best way to proceed.

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Ridout Barron
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