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Provincial government promotes employee rights

The British Columbia government has made a landmark move in banning the mandatory wearing of high heels in places of employment. High heels have been proven to be detrimental to the health of the wearer, as some Ontario residents can likely attest. This marks a major step forward for employee rights the nation over, since moves like this made by provincial authorities can often facilitate change elsewhere in the country. Interestingly, the Ontario Human Rights Commission stated last year that sexualized dress codes could constitute violations of workplace human rights.

The B.C. Minister of Labour has gone on record as confirming that employee footwear should be first and foremost safe in the workplace. She has condemned the practice of forcing predominantly female employees to wear high heels as part of their work attire, calling it part of the "overall sexualization" of women in the workplace. In addition to the health benefits of not wearing high heels, it is her hope that this move will also help to stem sexual harassment. 

The private member's bill was introduced, rather appropriately, on International Women's Day, by the leader of B.C.'s Green Party. The regulation states that no employer can force an employee to wear footwear that inhibits their ability to do their job. Given the number of employees who came forward to talk about the detriments of high heels, including back and leg pain, bleeding feet and other conditions, this seems like a prudent move on the part of the Labour ministry and the government as a whole. 

Employee rights go beyond generalized conversation about harassment in the workplace or poor working conditions. For many Ontario employees, as well as workers across the nation, issues as seemingly minor as footwear can have long-lasting effects on their job performance and health. This is why upholding standards pertaining to the rights of employees is so important, and why a legal framework exists to support those who are victimized in the workplace. 

Source: Vancouver Sun, "B.C. bans mandatory high heels in workplace", April 7, 2017

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