Casino bartenders must wear lipstick

Court rules that casino can force female employees to wear makeup as part of its dress code.

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards
April 25, 2006 6:54PM (UTC)
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Thanks to reader Amy Kunce for alerting us to a disappointing court decision we missed earlier this month. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled in a split decision that Harrah's casino can mandate female bartenders to wear makeup, according to the Associated Press. The employee dress code is not considered sex discrimination, the decision said.

Darlene Jespersen went to court after being fired from her job in 2000 as a bartender for Harrahs casino in Reno, Nev., where she had worked for 21 years. She had refused to wear face powder, blush, mascara and lipstick, which were required for female bartenders. But the court decided that makeup was part of reasonable grooming standards, which were applied equally to men and women, since male bartenders had to cut their hair. Jespersen had argued the policy was unfair because makeup is costlier and takes more time to apply.


"This is not a case where the dress or appearance requirement is intended to be sexually provocative and tending to stereotype women as sex objects," Chief Judge Mary Schroeder wrote in the majority opinion.

Judge Harry Pregerson dissented, writing that the policy "was motivated by sex stereotyping," the AP reports. "The inescapable message is that women's undoctored faces compare unfavorably to men's."

Employees certainly can be expected to show up for work clean and neat. But whats the point of lipstick? Shouldn't Harrah's be focusing on her ability to shake three cosmos and mix a white Russian while handling a fusillade of orders from a bachelor party fresh off the blackjack tables?


Broadsheet applauds Jespersen for fighting what is clearly a ridiculous policy. We just wish someone would challenge those cocktail waitress uniforms.

Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at

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