How can wearing heels help you do your job?
That’s the question a London receptionist asked when she was told she had to wear 2 to 4-inch heels at work, according to BBC News.
Nicola Thorp, 27, was a temp worker hired at PwC, a finance company in London. She was told about the policy and refused, saying she didn’t own any heels and preferred to wear flats. She said the job entailed 9 hours of walking clients to meeting rooms throughout the building.
When the company still insisted, Thorp asked if the same policy applied to men at the company and was “laughed at.” She finally asked how wearing heels would make her better at her job.
“I said ‘if you can give me a reason as to why wearing flats would impair me to do my job today, then fair enough,’ but they couldn't,” Thorp told BBC Radio London.
Officials sent her home without pay anyway.
Outsourcing firm Portico said it set the uniform rules for staff supplied to PwC but would now review guidelines.
“In line with industry standard practice, we have personal appearance guidelines across many of our corporate locations,” a Portico spokesman told BBC. “These policies ensure staff are dressed consistently and include recommendations for appropriate style of footwear for the role.
“We have taken on board the comments regarding footwear and will be reviewing our guidelines in consultation with our clients and team members.”
It’s unclear if the policy is legal in London, where laws state that companies can set up different dress codes for men and women, as long as there’s an equivalent level of professionalism.
The United States also does not state outright that the policy would be illegal. Employers are prohibited from enacting dress codes that prevent certain ethnic or religious dress and required to accomodate outfits required for a disability, but there is nothing related to gender discrimination in federal law, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Different dress codes are allowed for men and women as long as it doesn’t place an “undue burden” on one gender over another. However, some states place additional restrictions on the differences allowed between male and female dress codes, i.e. California law says offices cannot prohibit women from wearing pants.