Sylva Stoel, a 17-year-old from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, quit her job last week when she was told to go home and change. She reasoned the red shorts, which she paired with a sleeveless blue button-down, were appropriate for work, since the store had marketed them that way.
Stoel at first took to Twitter to vent, and then continued Tweeting Tuesday to question the fairness of the standard, which she says unfairly targets women.
He asked how long it'd take for me to go home & change. I said "idk probably the whole day" I'm not coming back— Sylva (@queenfeminist) July 24, 2015
"Rules are rules" but when the rule is unfair we must question WHY it's a rule, WHO made the rule, and then BREAK THAT RULE.— Sylva (@queenfeminist) July 28, 2015
Dress codes benefit patriarchy bc they shame women for "dressing provocatively" and absolve men from all blame. Break the dress code.— Sylva (@queenfeminist) July 28, 2015
"I didn't expect it to happen, but I wasn't surprised – there's been a lot of talk about unfair dress codes affecting women, and it was in the back of my mind that this could happen," Stoel tells PEOPLE.
JCPenney tells PEOPLE in a statement that their dress code does not discriminate on the basis of gender. "JCPenney's dress code policy for store associates prohibits the wearing of shorts of any length. This policy applies to both male and female associates. We have reached out to the associate who blogged about this policy, but she has not returned our telephone calls thus far."
Stoel tells PEOPLE she didn't know about the no-shorts rule.
"They never said 'no shorts' at orientation. I never even got a handbook or anything. The manager was asked, and she said, no tank tops, spaghetti straps, absolutely no denim, and no T-shirts. And when asked for clarification she said, nothing that you're falling out of. So I thought, 'I'm not falling out of these shorts.' "
Stoel has gotten support for her views on Twitter, and thanked her supporters on Tuesday. "All the support is totally amazing thank you all so much!!" she wrote.