Brothel Helping Cocktail Waitress

Friday, February 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Cocktail waitresses protesting dress codes and makeup requirements at Nevada casinos are enlisting one of the state's most notorious industries to help make their point.

They say casino guidelines requiring high heels, makeup, styled hair and an overall appealing appearance are more restrictive than those at area brothels.

``How bad is the casino industry when the job requirements of a prostitute are more humane and less degrading than those for cocktail servers and bartenders?'' said Kricket Martinez, a casino worker and organizer for the Nevada Alliance for Workers' Rights.

The nonprofit group of union workers and other activists planned to rally Friday in front of Harrah's Reno to protest the policies and compare them to those of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a brothel whose owner calls himself the ``pimpmaster general of America.''

A Harrah's spokeswoman bristled at the comparison.

``As a female and an employee of Harrah's Entertainment Inc., I am appalled and deeply offended that someone would draw a comparison between employees of the Bunny Ranch and employees of our beverage department,'' Kerri Garcia said Thursday.

At Harrah's, the requirements include: lip color and makeup applied neatly in complementary colors; shoes with a minimum 1-inch heel; and hair that's teased, curled or styled. Workers also must be ``well-groomed, appealing to the eye, be firm and body toned.''

At the Bunny Ranch in nearby Dayton, Nev., owner Dennis Hof said makeup is optional, and hair must be clean. Jeans are not allowed, nor are bare feet or house slippers. Everything else goes.

``I don't sell anything else but sex — and yet I'm not concerned about makeup,'' Hof said. ``Harrah's is not selling sex but they want their girls to be all made up.''

The protesters are initially targeting Harrah's because it fired bartender Darlene Jespersen in August for refusing to wear makeup.

``I'm hoping Harrah's will take notice and realize how much they exploit women,'' said Jespersen, 45.

Jespersen said she worked at Harrah's without makeup for 20 years. She filed a discrimination complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, which is investigating.

She has since been offered her job back, but declined pending the outcome of the commission's review. Commission officials said they cannot comment on Jespersen's case.

``They single out women and tell them how to dress but they don't do it to men who are doing the same jobs,'' she said. ``What does makeup have to do with mixing drinks?''

Garcia said Harrah's beverage staff has the lowest turnover rate among any department in all of Harrah's Entertainment Corp. and its 21 properties nationwide.

``I think that's a good sign of employee satisfaction. And the Reno beverage department has the highest customer service rating in the entire company,'' she said.

Martinez, who works at Circus-Circus, helped lead rallies earlier this year as part of the worker alliance's Kiss My Foot Campaign aimed at reversing casino requirements that waitresses wear high heels.

``Female employees are pieces of meat put on display for male customers,'' she said. ``Harrah's might as well put a sign saying, `Our goal is to hire only firm, young bodies, and fire anyone who doesn't have one.''


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