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Sexual discrimination

Schweppes and modeling agency face fines over Barcelona Open miniskirt scandal

Companies accused of sexual discrimination for forcing models to wear uniform in cold, wet weather

Azafatas Conde Godo
Hostesses during the last year's Barcelona Tennis Open.

Beverage company Schweppes and Spanish modeling agency Toté Vignau face fines of €25,000 after forcing eight models to wear miniskirts and short-sleeved tees in rainy, cold weather during the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell tennis tournament (Torneo Conde de Godó).

One of the models was so cold she would finish work with headaches and a fever

In May 2017, eight models, contracted as hostesses by Toté Vignau to wear a uniform advertising the drink Schweppes, complained that they had to don the skimpy outfits in temperature below 10ºC and in the rain – despite it causing health problems. The General Union of Workers (UGT) brought the case to the Catalan government’s labor inspectorate, arguing it was an instance of sexual discrimination and accusing the companies of failing to provide proper health safeguards.

On Tuesday, the UGT announced that the labor inspectorate “has decided to send a very serious infraction notice to the companies Schweppes and Tote Vignau for sexual discrimination in the workplace.” The Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona must also “guarantee the coordination of business activities to prevent work hazards in the Barcelona Open,” the UGT said.

Serious infractions are punished with fines between €10,000 and €187,000.

In this case, the workplace inspectors have recommended a €25,000 fine to each of the companies, which are allowed to appeal the decision. Ultimately, however, only the region’s employment ministry has the power to enforce the fines.

Only the region’s Work Department has the power to enforce the fines

Last May, one of the models said she was so cold – temperatures were unusually low for May in Barcelona – that she would finish work with headaches and a fever. She asked if she could keep herself warm with stockings or a jacket but the companies said no, allowing her only to rug up while on a break.The case caused such outrage that the tennis tournament apologized and said it was unaware of the working conditions of the hostesses.

In a press release, the UGT celebrated the labor inspectorate’s decision, arguing it has confirmed “what the whole world saw and what the organization denounced: the use of eight women’s bodies for publicity purposes” and the “lack of safeguards in the coordination of preventing work hazards.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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