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The public inquiry: letters to restaurants

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On July 8, 2016, the OHRC initiated a human rights inquiry into dress codes in the restaurant sector and identified restaurant companies based on the following criteria:

  • They own or operate one or more restaurant chains, or multiple establishments/brands, in the casual/family dining sector, and
  • They are industry leaders, in terms of the number of people employed in Ontario, and/or their potential to influence industry norms and standards.

The OHRC wrote to the companies listed below, which represent more than 25 multi-location brands and hundreds of restaurants across Ontario, informing them about dress code concerns and obligations under the Code. The letter included a checklist of measures that they – and all restaurants – should take to make sure that their dress codes comply with the Code. The OHRC provided deadlines for the companies to provide written commitment to implement the measures, and to show compliance.

Companies contacted 

Companies contacted for the Inquiry
Company Restaurant(s)
Cactus Restaurants Ltd. Cactus Club Café

Cara Operations Ltd.

Bier Markt, East Side Mario’s, Kelsey’s, Milestones, Montana’s

Prime Pubs: Fionn MacCool’s, D'Arcy McGee's, Paddy Flaherty's, Tir nan Óg

The Landing Group: Baxters, Hunters, Williams, Jacksons, Harpers, Arthurs, Carters, Kellys, Taylors

Earl’s Restaurants Ltd. Earl’s Kitchen and Bar
FAB Restaurant Concepts, Inc. Against the Grain, Brazen Head, Dominion Pub and Kitchen, Foggy Dew, Murphy’s Law, Pogue Mahone, Pour House, Watermark
Firkin Group of Pubs 27 Ontario Firkin pubs

Imago Restaurants

Duke Pubs – Duke of: Devon, Kent, Richmond, Westminster, York, Somerset
Imvescor Restaurant Group Inc. Baton Rouge
JOEY Restaurant Group JOEY Restaurants
The Keg Steakhouse and Bar The Keg Steakhouse and Bar
Moxie's Restaurants, LP 24 Ontario Moxie’s Grill and Bar locations
Pegasus Group of Companies, Inc. Figo, Fox and Fiddle, Home of the Brave, La Carnita, Macho Radio Bar, The Miller Tavern, O'Grady's Tap & Grill, Wheat Sheaf Tavern, Palais Royale, The Grand Luxe
Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill Shoeless Joe’s Sports Grill
SIR Corp  (Service Inspired Restaurants Corporation) Canyon Creek, Duke’s Refresher Bar, Jack Astor’s, Loose Moose,  REDS, Scaddabush
Urban Dining Group, Inc. Amsterdam Brewhouse, Gabby’s Restaurant Group, Hey Lucy

The dress code checklist

The OHRC inquiry letter provided a checklist that was developed to help organizations make their dress codes and uniform policies consistent with the Code protections relating to sex and gender, as set out in the OHRC’s Policy position on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes. While the inquiry focused on specific companies, all Ontario restaurants – and other employers – have a legal obligation to make sure that their dress requirements comply with the Code.

All dress code/uniform policies should:

  1. Allow for a range of dress/uniform options, for all staff in all front-of-house positions
  2. Not require any staff to wear sexualized, revealing or gender-stereotypical clothing
  3. Make sure that all staff can choose from clothing options, including pants, that are comparable in terms of style, comfort, practicality and coverage, regardless of sex or gender
  4. Offer uniform sizes that fit a wide range of body types 
  5. Make all dress code options available by default, rather than only offering certain options by request
  6. Not include grooming or appearance rules or expectations for women that are more onerous than those for men, or that are sexualized or based on stereotypical ideas of female attractiveness
  7. Allow for a range of hairstyles, and not require a specific hairstyle unless it is a legitimate requirement of the job (e.g. food preparation)
  8. Specify that applicants or interviewees cannot be asked to identify what kind of uniform option they will choose to wear until they have been given an offer of employment
  9. Include processes for handling dress code-related accommodation requests and complaints
  10. Be communicated with and freely available to all staff.

The OHRC requested that each company implement these measures in its Ontario operations and confirm compliance by December 2016 with supporting documentation, such as policies, communications, and training materials.

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