Wearing a skimpy bathing suit to work is not just a gimmick to perk up coffee sales but a fundamental exercise in free expression, a group of Washington State baristas are claiming.
The so-called bikini baristas are suing the city of Everett in federal court over its newly imposed dress code, the Seattle Times reported Monday.
The ordinance, which passed unanimously Aug. 16 and went into effect Sept. 5, requires personnel at “Quick Service Facility” operations such as drive-thru coffee to wear clothing that covers the “minimum body areas” including the torso, buttocks and less less than 3 inches “below the buttocks, pubic area, and genitals.”
The law essentially imposes a three-strikes rule that revokes a business license for any “Quick Service Facility” such as a drive-thru coffee shop, after its third dress-code citation. The first violation results in a $250 fine on the business owner and mandates the business be put on a special “probationary license.” Subsequent infractions result in $500 fines, and two or more violations while on the probationary license are grounds for the city to revoke the license and effectively shut it down.
Court documents filed by the baristas’ attorney argue that the city is not only stifling the ladies’ First Amendment rights, but that the town council — which approved the new law unanimously — put in place a law that discriminates on the basis of gender and hence violates equal protection provisions of the 14th and 5th Amendments, according to the court filing, the Times said.
“This is not about the bikini,” said the baristas’ attorney Schuyler Lifschultz, according to the Times. “It’s about women’s rights and the U.S. Constitution. The City of Everett violated these women’s rights across the board.”
“These ordinances set back women’s rights by 50 years,” complained plaintiff Leah Humphrey in a statement, the Times said.
But upholding women’s rights is precisely why the city acted as it did, at least according to one city official.
“This is not about being offended by people wearing bikinis,” assistant city attorney Ramsey Ramerman said in August, the Times reported. “Some of these stands had the characteristics of a poorly run strip club, and trying to enforce standards under the previous law was simply ineffective.”