Groups want casinos to drop high heel policy

LAS VEGAS (AP) - High heels and Las Vegas cocktail waitresses usually go together, but three activist groups want that to change.

The Nevada Empowered Women's Project, the Alliance for Worker's Rights and Planned Parenthood say appearance doesn't justify the health risks the shoes pose to women.

They are conducting a survey of Nevada waitresses and physicians to find out the consequences of long-term heel use. Armed with the findings, they hope to force the casinos to end a mandatory high heel policy, voluntarily or not.

''We are finding out that women do want a choice,'' said Marci Wehry Harper, director of the Nevada Empowered Women's Project. ''We've found a lot of support for this campaign. There are long-term health risks to the back, neck and feet.

''All doctors say the heel needs to be 1 inch or less to prevent damage.''

So far, 50 women have responded to the survey, though the goal is 1,000 waitresses. The average heel height is between 2 and 3 inches - and all of the women responding say the heels are mandatory, Harper said.

But it's not going to be an easy sell to the gambling industry.

It's a touchy topic for most casinos, and most won't discuss it. One exception is Mirage Resorts Inc.

Alan Feldman, spokesman for Mirage, said the company's standard uniform for a cocktail waitress is a 2-inch heel. But women do have the option to wear something different for health reasons, Feldman said.

Bob Ostrovsky, a lobbyist with the Nevada Resort Association, thinks it's much to do about nothing.

''Most cocktail waitresses on the Strip ... the vast majority are represented by the Culinary Union,'' Ostrovsky said. ''I've been involved in negotiations since 1973. Quite frankly, I don't ever recall the union bringing forward a proposal to limit this shoe style.''

And one cocktail waitress said the shoes are part of the identity of waitresses across Las Vegas.

''I think they just make the uniform look better,'' said Elizabeth Gomez, a cocktail waitress at the Orleans hotel-casino. ''It's Las Vegas, where people want to see cocktail waitresses that look nice.''


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