By Daily Mail Reporter
For five years, Melanie Stark worked diligently as a sales assistant at Harrods and won a commendation for customer service.
But she says bosses finally decided her face didn’t fit – because she refuses to wear make-up.
Miss Stark, 24, resigned after she was twice sent home from the Knightsbridge department store for refusing to comply with its strict dress code.
Anger: Melanie Stark claims she was driven out of her job at Harrods because she refused to wear make-up
On another occasion, she was made to work in a stockroom.
She says she was even offered a cosmetics workshop and told: ‘You can see what you look like with make-up.’
‘I was appalled,’ she said. ‘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 make-up. 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 to wear it or not.’
Miss Stark, of New Cross, South London, who left last week, added: ‘I was happy there, but I’ve been driven out.’
A copy of the 13-page dress code was handed to Miss Stark when she joined the HMV department in Harrods aged 19.
She worked part-time for the first three years while a philosophy, religion and ethics student at King’s College, London, then full-time for £8 an hour.
Miss Stark says she complied with all other aspects of the dress code and Harrods did not seek to enforce the make-up regulations until last August when she was sent home after a ‘floor walk’ by senior managers.
She wrote to Harrods saying: ‘To be told that one’s face is inadequate is extremely degrading.’ The next day she was put to work in the stockroom where customers could not see her.
Then she was summoned to a meeting with her floor manager and, she claims, told: ‘You wear make-up or you leave.’
It was suggested she could ‘just wear eyeliner and lipstick’ but Miss Stark stuck to her guns, returning to work without any make-up.
Three weeks ago a new floor manager told staff: ‘Girls, I want you to be made up.’
Miss Stark was briefly transferred to HMV’s store in Bayswater, West London, while a resolution was sought, but had already decided to resign. She has yet to find another job and said: ‘I’ve been upset by the whole ordeal.’
Clare Murray, of the specialist law firm CM Murray, said Miss Stark could have grounds to sue Harrods if she took the store to an employment tribunal claiming sex discrimination.
To do so, she would have to argue that the dress code is imposed differently, in more detail or more rigorously on women than on men.
A spokesman for the department store said she left 'of her own accord'
But UK case law supports the right of employers to impose dress codes with different requirements for women and men provided the overall effect is broadly the same between both sexes.
Harrods has an equally strict dress code for men including, for example, that sideburns must be no wider than one inch.
The HMV concession is on the third floor of the store and staff there must meet Harrods’ requirements for appearance. Miss Stark has no issue with HMV.
A Harrods spokesman said: ‘All our staff are subject to a dress code which they sign up to on joining the company, which relates to an overall polished appearance.
‘Our records show that discussions with Melanie Stark concerned a general lack of adherence to the dress code.
‘She subsequently decided to leave of her own accord with no reference made to dress code.’