Casino bartender fired after refusing to wear makeup

RENO, Nev. - A Harrah's Reno bartender is claiming discrimination after being fired for refusing to comply with a new policy requiring female employees to wear makeup.

Darlene Jespersen, 44, who was fired in August after 21 years with Harrah's, said she has never worn makeup but has always been well-groomed and clean.

''I was humiliated,'' she told a Reno newspaper. ''I was good enough to do my job as a bartender for 18, 19 years and suddenly I wasn't good enough to do my job anymore because I refused to look like a clown.

''And I wonder, is it because I wasn't pretty enough or too old?. I just know that if I were a man, this would be a non-issue ... This is about (women's) civil rights.''

Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson declined comment on Jespersen's dismissal, citing her right to privacy.

But he defended the policy, saying customers expect female employees to look good and wear makeup.

''It is one of the expectations in our culture,'' he said. ''Women have traditionally worn makeup. I've been around women all my life. I've not seen many women who did not know how to wear makeup.''

The new appearance guidelines require women to wear teased, curled or styled hair, solid black leather shoes and makeup - defined as foundation or face powder, blush, mascara and lipstick.

The new policy also forbids male employees to wear ponytails or hair below the top of shirt collars.

Before being fired, Jespersen talked to officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who told her that Nevada courts have ruled that employers can ask employees to wear makeup.

She then consulted the Alliance for Workers' Rights, which helped her find an attorney.

She did not return a phone message left on her home answering machine Sunday seeking comment on her plans.

Thompson said most employees have accepted the new dress policy. But he acknowledged opposition to a requirement that employees fit into their original uniforms, even after pregnancy.

After a number of complaints, the policy now gives women six months to lose the weight and fit back into their original uniforms.

Donna Cartinella, who worked as a Harrah's cocktail waitress for 23 years, said the requirement adds a lot of stress, especially for women.

She quit this summer, in part because Harrah's demanded in writing that female employees control their weight and wear makeup.

''Think about how weight fluctuates,'' she said. ''With this new appearance standard, if you gain weight, which many of us do, you're really in trouble.''

In Reno, appearance standards vary from casino to casino. At least two other local casinos do not require female employees to wear makeup.

In Las Vegas, a spokesman for The Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino said his resort does not ask female employees to sign a paper requiring makeup.

Earlier this year, a group of women launched a statewide drive to give casino cocktail waitresses the right to choose whether to wear high heels at work.

Women say two-inch heels can cause serious foot and back injuries, and Nevada casinos should end their mandatory high heel policy.


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