Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bald is beautiful, but not to boss

Server fired after cutting her locks

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ON New Year's Eve, as her long locks tumbled to the floor, Stephanie Lozinski wasn't thinking about her appearance.

Instead, as the clock ticked towards 2011, the full-time University of Winnipeg student was thinking about making a statement for her uncle, who was fighting a losing battle with the cancer that had spread to his bones.

At first, her close-shaved skull felt amazing. "It was just my way of saying that vanity, and the way I look, is not as important as supporting somebody who is going through something that is a lot bigger," Lozinski said. "Having a physical symbol that I'm there for them is important. Looking pretty means nothing (compared to cancer)."

Apparently, it did mean something to her employers.

On Sunday, Jan. 16, Lozinski was fired from her job at Sawatdee Thai's Provencher Boulevard restaurant when its managers weren't keen on her shorn look.

Lozinski, who had already been covering her head at work with a long auburn wig or a richly embroidered Indian silk scarf, was stunned, especially since she said she told her bosses about her plan beforehand.

"I finished my shift on (that) Sunday night, and my boss told me that her husband (manager Linh Bo) didn't like my head," she said. "I just walked out and I couldn't believe it. I was really in shock. I've never been fired before, so it was pretty upsetting."

Reached last week, Bo, who manages Sawatdee Thai's Osborne Street location, said even with a scarf, Lozinski's new look didn't fit the restaurant's standards. "If you go to fine dining, what do you expect from a server? Seriously," said Bo, whose partner owns the business. "As a customer, you walk into fine dining and you have fine dining."

Bo said managers at the restaurant's two locations are clear with staff they can't have visible tattoos and must wear their hair appropriately, besides dressing in a required Thai skirt.

But Lozinski, who said she was never informed of a dress code and other employees were allowed to have edgy haircuts and colours, doesn't believe the firing was fair.

If she had been a "Steve Lozinski," for instance, she doubts she would have been canned for shaving her head.

That could set the stage for a gender-discrimination complaint to Manitoba's Human Rights Commission. Lozinski left messages with the commission this week, she said, and plans to file a complaint soon.

"I think trying to build awareness is helping me," she said. "I'm just trying to get the word out there so that people understand that it happens, and my boss will realize it's the wrong decision... I felt it was really inappropriate and thought it was against my rights."

This isn't the first time a healing-minded head-shave has sparked an employment tussle in Canada.

In 2008, an Owen Sound, Ont., waitress, Stacey Fearnall, was fired from her serving job after she shaved her head to raise $2,700 for cancer charities.

After a storm of media attention, the restaurant's owner apologized to Fearnall and cancer groups and Fearnall found work elsewhere.

Lozinski hopes other restaurants will welcome her look, too, though she chuckled she won't expect a call from Sawatdee Thai.

But before finding a new gig, she has another hurdle to face: Only hours after the Free Press spoke to Lozinski last week, her uncle -- the man who inspired the shave -- died. He never did get to see her symbol of solidarity.

Still, Lozinski plans to keep showing off the bald-is-beautiful statement. "It's just my way of showing people that it's important to not connect the bald head and sickness," she said.

"It's important for people to see that sometimes it's just a decision."



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2011 A3

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