You couldn't plan a funnier headline than this.
March 1, 2000 10:16 PM   Subscribe

You couldn't plan a funnier headline than this. This is another keeper quote "[one of the employees] said she resented being treated like a sexual object." Treated like a sexual object in a strip club? Who would have thought that'd happen? I'm sorry, I'm all for worker's rights, but in a strip club? You gotta draw the line somewhere.
posted by mathowie (29 comments total)
What's next? Employees at Disney World complaining that being forced to act like Goofy is demeaning?
posted by othermatt at 10:24 PM on March 1, 2000

It seems to me as though when these women were initially hired, the dress code for waiting staff was one that they were comfortable with. Obviously, they aren't anymore. This has nothing to do with Goofy. The people who accept jobs at Disney know they're going to wear those hot, stinky Goofy and Mickey suits.
posted by Ms Snit at 11:49 PM on March 1, 2000

I can sort of understand their complaint from the point of view of them just being waitresses and nothing else. But they'd have to be very naive not to notice that there were no waiters.
posted by dodgygeezer at 4:20 AM on March 2, 2000

What's the problem with these women getting another job?

Working conditions change. Are they saying there aren't any more waitressing jobs in LA?
posted by vitaminb at 9:01 AM on March 2, 2000

Ah, but there were waiters - wearing black pants and white shirts - which was the original uniform for the women... I saw this on TV last night, and I *did* eyeroll, but just from the standpoint that certain venues probably need to have different standards WRT what constitutes sexual harrassment. A policy decision re uniforms at a strip club seems reasonable (although I understand the grabass potential), while the same policy at Dennys would not. Okay, I just ooked myself by envisioning Dennys waitresses in hotpants...

Wasn't there a sexual discrimination suit brought against Hooters by a guy who didn't get hired because... um... he was a guy? How did that turn out? I'd think that even if it's not technically "relevant" case law, it ought to be indicative of which way the judicial wind is blowing. I apologize for saying "blowing" in the context of this topic.

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 9:12 AM on March 2, 2000

The guy suing Hooters lost his suit, oddly enough. The judge ruled that there were other jobs at the restaurant which were available for men, and that it was not unreasonable for a restaurant to use women exclusively to wait tables, which the restaurant was differentiating itself from its competition with, er, umm...

On the other hand, if the restaurant refused to hire a woman for that job simply because she had small, err, umm, then she could sue. But there's a certain Darwinism operating, and some women will do far better on tips, I suspect, then others will. So others will, I suspect, give up and move on to other opportunities.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:40 AM on March 2, 2000

Actually, now I've thought about it a bit more this story is completly mad.

I guess the main point is that sexual discrimination is "OK" (he says in the losest sense of the word) in a strip joint because the whole concept of a strip club is sexist in it's self. To complain about being treated in a sexist manner when your wages come from someone who exploits women is quite clearly nonsense.

(in other words it's OK for another woman to demean herself for your pay so long as you don't have to)
posted by dodgygeezer at 10:05 AM on March 2, 2000

Makes one wonder whether bluenoses might have better luck closing down strip clubs based on sexual harassment complaints rather than the usual obscenity or prostitution issues...
posted by wendell at 10:05 AM on March 2, 2000

Why should a strip club have different standards of what constitutes sexual harrassment? If anything, given the nature of the business, the line has to be even more strictly defined. Patrons of a strip club are going there for a service: to look at bodies and to drink. This does not include: to grab what is unclothed; to make lude, lascivious comments to the waitstaff (regardless of their uniform); or to otherwise commiserate in a manner that would be untolerable at any other establishment.

I agree with Ms. Snit here. The waitstaff was not part of the entertainment, and the move to make the waitress outfit more revealing moved that group over the line between entertainment and service staff. Sure, anyone who had a problem with it could quit, but the three waitresses were not given the option to adapt or to quit. They were just fired outright. That's why they're suing. They didn't have a chance to make that choice, the choice was made for them.
posted by jason at 10:07 AM on March 2, 2000

Jason, I can see why they're suing, and I can clearly see a differentiation between the entertainment and the waitstaff, but based on what I saw on a few drunken nights in a strip club, the clientele consider everything female "entertainment."

To me, strip clubs are depressing places and I couldn't see why anyone would demean themselves by working there.
posted by mathowie at 10:22 AM on March 2, 2000

Actually Jason, most strip clubs do have very strict rule of conduct enforcement wrt grabbing or making rude/lewd comments. Say or do anything outside those rules and you get ejected immediately, even if you haven't finished your "champagne." Grab a waitresses ass at Dennys and she may spit in your food, but if you grab a waitresses ass at Bob's Classy Lady, you'll get dragged outside by a large bouncer who may very well beat the crap out of you.

As for being given the chance to "adapt or quit" - they were told the new policy, refused to follow it, and were fired. That's different from the manager saying "hey Shirley - your breasts are too small for the new outfits, get your check and get out." I've certainly been places where the dress code or the "uniform" has changed during my tenure, and I was told to adopt the new code or seek employment elsewhere - that's not against the law. The argument here is that the new uniforms were too revealing and therefore consitituted sexual harrassment. My point was that in a venue like a strip club, it's hard to argue with a choice to modify the atmosphere by sexifying the waitstaff's uniform.

Sure, it's about projecting a sexy (or sexual) image, but it's a STRIP CLUB. Nobody was fired for being ugly/fat/flat/acne scarred, nobody was fired for refusing to put out, and nobody (at least based upon the article) was the object of lewd comments by the management. The argument that they would be subject to suggestive or lewd comments from the STRIP CLUB PATRONS seems a bit absurd.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:25 AM on March 2, 2000

Yes, it is a strip club but these women were hired as waitresses, not strippers.

And why would they want to work in such a sleazy environment? Because they can make bank. If they've got kids to support or school to pay for, well, nothing beats flexible hours and fat tips.

And why would they object to wearing these little outfits? Because they are waitresses and not strippers. If they wanted to make big tips waiting tables with their tits out they probably would have just gone to work at Hooters.

And saying that by working in this envoronment they should expect and accept sexual harrassment is like saying that since I work in a male dominated industry I should except and accept not getting promoted unless I sleep my way to the top.

And if the clientele at strip clubs considers "everything female entertainment" isn't that the best argument of all not to tart up these women in hot pants and crop tops? While that outfit is perfectly fitting for hookers and strippers and Spanish channel game show hostesses, making these women wear them to wait tables is like laying brick in flip flops: counterproductive and dangerous and entirely inappropriate.

posted by jennyb at 10:47 AM on March 2, 2000

That was a funny headline, though, Matt.
posted by jennyb at 10:48 AM on March 2, 2000

I didn't say they should expect sexual harrassment - I said that I thought that the definition probably ought to be different for a strip club. The raison d'etre for a strip club is titilation. You can decide that having strippers is, in itself, enough to be competitive - but there are plenty of bars that make their waitresses wear hotpants where arousal isn't their main (stated) commodity, so I'm not sure what makes it sexual harrassment in this instance. Why is it okay at Toppers to tell Brenda that she's going to be JaegerGirl on Friday, so she has to wear the thong lederhosen and the 6" spikes, even though the general uniform for waitresses is short skirts and low cut pirate shirts?

My question is "What about a change in uniform policy" constitutes sexual harrassment in this case? If your beef is with the venue in general - that's fair, it's a place that's more likely to have obnoxious drunk men who will proposition you while you serve drinks (although perhaps not - I mean, for $25 you can go in the back for a lapdance with Candi, why waste it on the waitress?), but the consequences are much more severe - all it takes is a nod from the waitress and a patron is forcibly ejected. Period. Try getting that response at TGI Fridays.

I'd say that the potential for by the clientele is an "assumed risk" in a strip club, and since you said the reason for working in the "sleazy environment" was for "fat tips" and "flexible schedule" I think a case could be made that they understood that risk, weighed it against the benefit, and made a decision. Is the club sleazier because they are wearing skimpy outfits? I'd say it's a judgement call.

Jason said "Sure, anyone who had a problem with it could quit, but the three waitresses were not given the option to adapt or to quit. They were just fired outright. That's why they're suing. They didn't have a chance to make that choice, the choice was made for them." and I was disagreeing with him. You seem to be saying that strip clubs are sleazy environments, but that people choose to work there for the money - and I think you're probably right. I don't think that a decision to change the uniform constitutes sexual harrassment any more than their job already does. Does it foster a greater potential for sexual harrassment by the patrons? I suppose that's a legitimate question, but I don't think it's central to the complaint that they've filed.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 11:12 AM on March 2, 2000

I apologize for my total lack of proofreading. Long posts aren't exactly my strong suit. I also apologize for any significant lapses in logic - that's not really my area either. Dress codes, now *that* is something I'm passionate about. IMO, the dress code is seriously skewed the other way in a corporate environment, with women having many more casual options than men... Sure they have that whole glass ceiling/salary discrepancy/lack of respect thing - but they don't have to wear ties. I mean, lets have perspective here, people!
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 11:18 AM on March 2, 2000

Okay, first, the male workers cited in the article as being able to wear "black pants and white shirts" are (in my estimation) 99.9999% bouncers- not waitstaff.

People, again, since this point seems to be continually missed, this is a strip club and sexual harassment is entirely a subjective law. I can't even count the number of bars I've been in, or clubs, where the waitresses were spandex-laden. Surely it's management that defined their dress, and this case is no different. The club in question (which is a franchise, btw) established a dress code that meets the modicum of their industry. If you don't like the new uniforms, leave.

What of the rest of the waitstaff at the club? Are they the moral cesspool of Los Angeles? Doubtful. People go to these clubs for the sexual allure and, as an employee, you should be fully aware of the environment you're walking into. If these women were truly concerned about sexual harassment from the patrons, they wouldn't have worked there in the first place.
posted by othermatt at 11:54 AM on March 2, 2000

Why is it okay at Toppers to tell Brenda that she's going to be JaegerGirl on Friday, so she has to wear the thong lederhosen and the 6" spikes, even though the general uniform for waitresses is short skirts and low cut pirate shirts?Because Brenda was told what the job would entail when she applied for it, and she knew what she was getting into. If they didn't tell her about the occasional theme costume change that meant a more revealing outfit, and she got fired over refusing to wear it, she might have a case, maybe not, I don't know the legalities of it. In either case, her basic job function wouldn't have changed, as the waitresses were already (part of) the entertainment.

I agree with you, C.U.Joe, regarding changes in dress code and the legalities of such. However, at least from what I've seen, such changes are to make things more formal ("No more t-shirts and jeans, gang, start wearing at least dress casual.")... YMMV here. Such changes usually don't mean a change in role, though. Waitstaff stays waitstaff, techie stays techie, salesperson stays salesperson.

What makes the case of these three waitresses different is that the change in outfit would have meant a change in role. Before, they were strictly part of the service staff; there was a clean distinction between the women on stage and the women serving drinks. The new outfits would change where that line is drawn, changing the job function. This was not what they signed up for. If you want to put it more bluntly, they would have gone from "service" to "meat."

While we're at it, let's think about what the article isn't telling us. When were they notified about the change in outfit? Were they given a heads up two weeks in advance? Or a month? Or did they come in to work their shifts, get handed a crop-top and told, "Here, put this on," without any forewarning, then fired for not complying?

Speaking of the case and sexual harrassment, the article never stated that they were suing for being sexually harrassed. "Unwelcome sexual harrassment from customers or others" was a concern about the new outfits, but they don't state sexual harrassment as being in the charges. I'm guessing that they're suing for unlawful termination.
posted by jason at 12:37 PM on March 2, 2000

Obviously, like so many of you have pointed out, the club's whole business hinges upon titilation. However, these waitresses apparently did not participate in the creation of that sort of atmosphere. If you want to get really technical, then insisting that these women dress in such a manner really constitutes the creation of a Chilly environment - an environment where they, as women, are not comfortable as women and as employees. I think Jason's hit the nail on the head here. (did I just type that?) In changing the outfits, the role of the waitstaff - and only the female waitstaff - is also changed.

I do realize that this is a strip club. However, what makes people think that strip clubs should be exempt from sexual harrasment laws? I do understand that many people feel that strip clubs reveal the underbelly of society and objectify women in horrible ways, ect., But the women who strip at these clubs, like all of us, are just working a job. It's a work environment regardless of what kind of work is taking place. Why should the women there be subjected to hostile treatment just because they work in a strip joint and don't have a dick?

On another note, however, Jason's probably right in guessing that an unlawful termination suit has been filed.

Just my politically correct 2 cents.

posted by Ms Snit at 2:38 PM on March 2, 2000

Ms Snit:
I am afraid I used a poor choice of wording earlier. I certainly feel that strip clubs should be exempt from sexual harrassment laws, but I do think that certain job requirements - such as revealing outfits - might be reasonable in a strip club environment where they wouldn't be at a family restaurant or an office. I'm also not suggesting that women who work at strip clubs should be treated poorly. What I am saying is that the environment's hostility probably didn't change appreciably when the new uniforms were put into use. My experience of strip clubs is similar to Matts - a few visits for "guy events" where I spent the entire time thinking about how depressing it was. I don't recall what the waitress who sold me the $8 bottles of water (2 drink minimum!) on my last foray (a bachelor party) was wearing, but I remember being grateful that she wasn't pressuring me to go into the back room for a lapdance.

There is no indication in that article that they walked into work, were handed skimpy outfits and told to "wear this or get out." As for what their lawsuit entails:

LOS ANGELES, Posted 6:22 p.m. PST March 1, 2000 -- Three former waitresses are suing a topless club for making them wear clothes -- "skimpy" clothes, that is.

That could be wrongful termination, but if it is, it's a brilliant example of why the media makes it's own news.

Plus, if it's a wrongful termination case, their attorney seems confused:

"By requiring them to wear sexually suggestive attire as a condition of employment, it could reasonably be expected that the waitresses would be subjected to unwelcome sexual harassment from customers or others," Allred said.

as was as at least one of the complaintants:

Tharpe said she resented being treated like a sexual object.

This ran as one of those teaser-public interest stories on the news - the kind where it's a fluff piece, but they run teasers all night to get you to tune in. Those stories are typically long on SCANDAL and short on fact. The people who run Deja Vu are probably skanky minipulative mysogenistic assholes - I'm suggesting that, in this instance, you couldn't tell it from the article.

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 4:23 PM on March 2, 2000

should NOT be exempt from sexual harrassment laws. D'oh!

I really am a decent, fairminded sort who treats people well no matter what their gender - I can give you references. Really.

posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 4:25 PM on March 2, 2000

There is no indication in that article that they walked into work, were handed skimpy outfits and told to "wear this or get out."

No, there isn't. There's no indication to the timing whatsoever. That was my point. :)

This is getting way to convoluted for our own good.
posted by jason at 4:30 PM on March 2, 2000

Agrees to disagree. (does that mean that I get the last word? -- I'm crossing my fingers, love to get that last word in)
posted by Ms Snit at 4:36 PM on March 2, 2000



posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 4:46 PM on March 2, 2000

You bet.
posted by jennyb at 4:53 PM on March 2, 2000

damn :op
posted by Ms Snit at 8:51 PM on March 2, 2000

okay, we've all agreed the media sucks. Next case? :)
posted by othermatt at 9:22 AM on March 3, 2000

Has anybody asked Mr.Howie for a feature to allow posters to make corrections to comment entries? I've seen quite a few "D-oh" entries lately; of course they usually apply to some of the longest comments, so maybe just a little pop-up when a post gets over 100 words that asks "Are you sure you want to go on like this?"
posted by wendell at 10:33 AM on March 3, 2000

Are you talkin' to me?

Are *you* talking to *me*?

I don't see any other idiots here, you must be talking to me.
posted by CrazyUncleJoe at 10:37 AM on March 3, 2000

Now that's a funny headline! :)

Before I get snipped again, let me just say: I (heart) Crazy Uncle Joe!

(And yeah, an edit-my-oops function could be keen. Wendell scores big QA points.)
posted by jason at 5:59 PM on March 3, 2000

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