A high school student in Salt Lake City was not allowed to volunteer at a local charity event because she violated the dress code by wearing a pantsuit, KUTV-TV reported.
“I had worn this because I thought it would best represent my professional attitude, my love for service, and I was turned away,” Ellie Kaiser said after being asked to switch into a skirt before working at the Festival of Trees on Saturday. Instead of doing so, however, she left.
The event, organized by a 90-woman committee, is a fundraiser for a local medical facility, Primary Children’s Hospital. Committee chairwoman Marie Partridge told told the Salt Lake City Tribune that female festival volunteers are required to wear skirts or dresses, while men working at the event are required to wear dress shirts, ties and slacks.
“Once someone sees someone wearing pants, then everyone thinks that would be accepted,” she said. “We just don’t go there. We still are very strict in the way we want Primary Children’s Hospital represented.”
The dress code, Partridge said, ensures that volunteers stand apart from regular attendees, and has been in place since the festival began 44 years ago. However, KUTV reported that volunteers wear lanyards identifying them as event staff.
According to the Tribune, Partridge’s group was originally known as the Women’s Endowment Committee, and was part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The hospital was also founded by the church, until a medical company, Intermountain Healthcare, took ownership of it in 1975.
Kaiser, a member of the National Honor Society, said she interpreted the no-pants rule for women as a signal that few of her female peers wore pantsuits.
“I thought it was extremely sexist to be honest,” she told KUTV. “I think it’s just a way of enforcing really strict stereotypes on genders and these really aren’t reasonable rules.”
Watch KUTV’s report, as aired on Monday, below.