Petition Against Companies Requiring Women to Wear High Heels at Work Goes to UK Parliament

Parliament will now consider debating the petition with over 100,000 signatures.

May 12, 2016, 4:43 PM

— -- A London woman's petition asking the U.K. government to make it illegal for companies to require that women wear high heels to work garnered over 100,000 signatures as of today -- meaning that Parliament now must consider debating the issue.

The petition was started on Monday by 27-year-old Nicola Thorp, who recently spoke out about the "sexism" she said she faced in December, when she was sent home from work for refusing to wear high heels, the BBC reported.

Thorp said she was initially "a bit scared" about facing "negative backlash," but she told the BBC she is coming forward about the incident now after realizing other women have been put through similar situations.

At the time, Thorp said she had just been employed by outsourcing "front of house services" firm Portico to work as a temporary receptionist for finance consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in London.

When Thorp showed up in black flats for her first day on the job, she said a Portico supervisor told her she had to wear two- to four-inch heels or otherwise go home, citing Portico's dress code for female employees.

"I said, 'You know, I don’t see why what I’m wearing is going to affect my job in any way,'" Thorp told the BBC. "It was a 9-hour shift to escort clients from the front desk to meeting rooms. I’d be on my feet for nine hours."

Thorp said that when she pointed out a male receptionist wasn't wearing heels, her supervisor just laughed at her. When Thorp refused to go and buy heels with her own money, she was sent home without pay, she told the BBC.

After Thorp's story made headlines around the globe on Wednesday, PwC said in a statement that it asked Portico to review its uniform guidelines. PwC emphasized that the "dress code referenced in the media is not a PwC policy" and that Thorp was a Portico employee and not a PwC employee.

Later that day, PwC said in an updated statement that Portico had updated its uniform policy "with immediate effect" in response to its concerns. PwC added that it "places a great deal of emphasis on providing a progressive working environment for all of our people and we feel strongly that this must include third party employees working in our offices."

In a separate statement on Twitter that day, Portico said that "with immediate effect, all our female colleagues can wear plain flat shoes or plain court shoes as they prefer."

Under U.K. law, employers can dismiss staff who fail to live up to "reasonable" dress code demands, as long as they've been given enough time to buy shoes and clothes. Employers can also set up different codes for men and women as long as there's an "equivalent level of smartness."

In the U.S., "an employer may establish a dress code" but they must apply to "all employees or employees within certain job categories," according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Thorp said she now wants to prevent what happened to her from happening to other women, so she set up a formal petition to Parliament, asking lawmakers to make it illegal for companies to require women to wear heels at work.

The number of signatures on the petition topped 100,000 today, meaning that Parliament must now consider it for a debate.

Thorp did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for additional comment.