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Employment law: Harrods' sexist dress code 'drives out' employee

Melanie Stark had worked for HMV within Harrods for five years before she was "driven out" of her job by the apparently sexist Harrods requirement that all female staff must wear full makeup.

She had been an exemplary worker who had been awarded commendations for her customer service skills and achieved a 94% mark from a mystery shopper, who monitored her performance while masquerading as a member of public.

In all her years working at the store, Ms Stark had never worn makeup, but last August after senior managers inspected the HMV concession, she was sent home for refusing to wear makeup.

The following day she was told to work in the storeroom where she would not face customers.

After refusing to wear makeup, Ms Stark was told she could attend a makeup workshop and was told, "You can see what you look like with makeup."

Ms Stark said: "I was appalled. It was insulting. Basically, it was implying it would be an improvement. I don't understand how they think it is OK to say that.

"I know what I look like with makeup. I have used it, though never at work. But I just could not see how, in this day and age, Harrods could take away my right to choose whether to wear it or not.

"Makeup can change your features completely, especially if I was to wear all of what they were asking. I would look like a different person to me. And I never chose to look like that."

At a meeting with her Harrods floor manager, Ms Stark was told, "You've got two options. You wear makeup or you leave."

Feeling "exhausted, stressed and upset" by her experiences at Harrods, Ms Stark eventually resigned last week.

She said: "I was happy there, but I've been driven out."

Equal Justice Solicitors believe that Ms Stark could sue Harrods under the Equality Act 2010.

Director Lawrence Davies said: "On the facts, she performed her role well for five years without makeup, so it is clearly not a valid prerequisite for her role."

Harrods currently has a two-page dress code for female members of staff that states: "Full makeup at all time: base, blusher, full eyes (not too heavy), lipstick, lip liner and gloss are worn at all time and maintained discreetly (please take into account the store display lighting which has a 'washing out' effect)."


Related links:
Read more on this story (Guardian)
Read 'What should you do if you feel forced to resign?' (FindLaw)