Joey is under fire for allegedly forcing one of its employees to wear high heels all day and discouraging her to change into flats despite experiencing pain and bleeding.
The restaurant chain, which has locations in the U.S. and Canada, was named in a photo of a woman's bloody feet, shoes, and socks uploaded to Facebook on May 3 by Edmonton resident Nicola Gavins. Gavins said the feet belong to an unnamed friend who works at Joey, adding that the restaurant requires women to wear heels unless they are medically restricted. She said her friend was "berated by the shift manager for changing into flats," then told heels would be required of her again the next day.
"My friend's feet were bleeding to the point she lost a toenail," Gavins wrote, alleging that female staffers are required to purchase a $30 uniform, while men can dress in clothing from their own wardrobes. "Sexist, archaic requirements," she added.
The health risks of wearing high heels are no secret -- they can cause bunions, knee joint pressure and hammertoes, to name just a few issues. Gavins' post has been shared over 11,000 times, and is flooded with comments in support of the unnamed server (Gavis has not yet responded to a request for more information) as well as examples from Facebook users of other restaurants they say enforce similar practices.
Britt Innes, vice president of marketing for Joey Restaurant Group, told The Huffington Post that in March the restaurant changed its shoe guidelines after a dialogue with employees, and heels are now required to be no higher than two and a half inches. A handout uniform guide shows a pair of dress flats included among acceptable shoe choices for work.
"We made these changes and rolled this out in late March," Innes said. "However, it is clear that it did not reach every [employee] and I take ownership for that. In retrospect, we should have ensured all outdated training materials were destroyed."
Innes says she reached out to the employee in Gavins' photo "the moment we saw this post."
"Our [employee's] feedback is extremely important to us, so I wanted to hear directly from her about her experience. After speaking with her, we followed up with our management team at this location and also sent out company-wide communication to ensure everyone has the correct information and training materials around our policies and guidelines," she said.
Innes also denied the company charges only female staffers for uniforms: "We do require a refundable deposit for serving-related equipment from both male and female [employees]. This deposit is not a fee and is repaid upon return of these items," she said.
The Huffington Post called three Joey restaurant locations around Canada Wednesday to inquire about the shoe policy for servers and hostesses. One said they have no requirements for heels; another said that while there used to be a heels requirement, it no longer exists; and the Joey's on Jasper Avenue in Edmonton -- where the unnamed employee in the bloody photo works -- refused comment.
Perhaps all the attention will prompt other businesses to re-evaluate any unhealthy shoe policies. Gavins later wrote on Facebook that she hopes "we see some positive changes and fair labour practices for people in the service industry."