WASHINGTON — Can your boss fire you if you can't wear high heels? A former cocktail server at the MGM at National Harbor says that's just what the casino did to her.
Now, her petition demanding employers stop forcing women to wear heels is taking off.
Rebecca Lopez, a mother of four from Bowie, said she has to wear flats because of plantar fasciitis, or chronic inflammation of the tissue under her heel. For two years, between 2019 and 2021, she said the casino accommodated her. But then a new boss came in.
"He gathered anyone with a disability, and ADA accommodation, told them they were not to wear those shoes anymore, they were not sexy," she said of the new boss. "He told us we weren't cripples. He laughed at us and then posted a bulletin saying anyone who doesn't have heels is going to be terminated."
WUSA9 reached out to MGM for comment, but as of publication, they had not responded.
Lopez sent a May 2022 letter on MGM stationary that said she was being terminated for violating departmental appearance standards.
"You're holding a heavy tray of drinks and you're walking to and from and you're on your feet for 7.5 hours, 40 hours a week," she said describing her job. "It starts to take a toll on your whole structure."
Lopez's created a Change.org petition, which says "Stop Employers from Forcing Women in the Workplace to Wear Heels Causing Permanent Damage." It currently has more than 1,000 signatures. Several supporters have commented, "make the men wear heels."
"What I'm saying is women's health matters and this is a women's health issue," Lopez said.
A 2016 article in the National Law Review asks: "High Heels in Workplace: Can Employers Still Require Women to Wear Them?"
"Unless the employer will impose the same requirement on men, then the answer is no," the article says.
Nicola Thorp, who worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers in London, ignited a rebellion in in London's financial hub in 2016 when she refused an employer's order to get herself heels that were at least two inches high. But some lawyers say it can be complicated because employers can require you to wear a uniform.
Lopez says she now has scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. The single mom worries how she'll care for her four children and stay in her Bowie home.