February 16, 2001 01:33am
Waitresses Protest Outside Casino
by: Scott Sonner
(RENO, NV) -- About 50 cocktail waitresses and activists protested outside a casino Friday, saying dress codes and makeup requirements at Nevada casinos are more restrictive than those at area brothels.
The unionized workers are angry with casino guidelines requiring high heels, makeup, styled hair and an overall appealing appearance.
``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 group rallied in front of Harrah's Reno to protest the policies. They compared the policies to those of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a brothel whose owner calls himself the ``Pimpmaster General of America.''
Some carried signs reading, ``Harrah's Makes a Lousy Pimp'' and ``Harrah's Hooks Women to Make an Extra Buck'' and ``Harrah's: Stop Pimping Up Profits.''
A Harrah's spokeswoman bristled at the comparison to brothels.
``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.
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, 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 targeted 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. She said she worked at Harrah's without makeup for 20 years.
The Nevada Equal Rights Commission is investigating her complaint.
Jespersen has since been offered her job back, but declined pending the outcome of the commission's review. Commission officials would not comment on the case.
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.
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.''