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BARBWIRE
The true face of Nevada gambling
by
ANDREW BARBANO
Eternally expanding from the 10-8-2000 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

BREAKING NEWS
New book "Casino Women" features Jespersen saga
BARBWIRE: Daily Sparks Tribune 10-16-2011

Darlene Jespersen becomes inaugural inductee into the César Chávez Nevada Labor Hall of Fame
BARBWIRE: Daily Sparks Tribune 4-4-2010

UPDATE: Friday, 20 Feb. 2009 12:01 a.m. PST, 08:21 ZULU/GMT/CUT/SUT –

LIPSTICK LAWSUIT REDUX
Film featuring fired Harrah's bartender premieres at UNR

Admission FREE – Friday, Feb. 20, 2009, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Crowley Student Union

The hits just keep on coming

America the Beautiful scores another award in the Windy City before opening the Artivist Film Festival in LA
BARBWIRE: Daily Sparks Tribune 11-11-2007

On October 13, 2007, America the Beautiful, featuring a segment on Darlene Jespersen, won a Special Jury Prize for Best Direction (by Darryl Roberts) at the 43rd Annual Chicago International Film Festival which featured 160 films from 44 countries.
BARBWIRE 10-21-2007: Read more about it

The latest: Darlene Jespersen in new Hollywood feature-length documentary
BARBWIRE: Daily Sparks Tribune 5-13-2007

NEVADALABOR.COM EXCLUSIVE
The Barbwire Jespersen Archive

BAD NEWS ON GOOD FRIDAY: Fired Harrah's-Reno bartender Darlene Jespersen denied her day in court — Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules for Harrah's 7-4, validating her termination for refusal to wear makeup.

Update: Friday, April 14, 2006, 5:41 p.m. PDT — FROM JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI'S DISSENT: "I agree with Judge Pregerson and join his dissent—subject to one caveat: I believe that Jespersen also presented a triable issue of fact on the question of disparate burden....Finally, I note with dismay the employer’s decision to let go a valued, experienced employee who had gained accolades from her customers, over what, in the end, is a trivial matter. Quality employees are difficult to find in any industry and I would think an employer would long hesitate before forcing a loyal, long-time employee to quit over an honest and heartfelt difference of opinion about a matter of personal significance to her. Having won the legal battle, I hope that Harrah’s will now do the generous and decent thing by offering Jespersen her job back, and letting her give it her personal best— without the makeup." (Download the entire decision in Adobe Acrobat Reader .pdf format. If you don't have Acrobat Reader, you may download it free from Adobe.com.)

POSTMORTEM ANALYSIS: Barbwire by Barbano: Humpty Dumpty justice, Sparks Tribune 4-16-2006; plus commentary by Jespersen attorney Jenny Pizer.

AS ALWAYS, MONITOR NEVADALABOR.COM FOR UPDATES.

ONWARD, CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS.

Be well. Raise hell.

     Stories about the federal legal action appear hereinbelow in chronological order with the oldest at the top. The original Barbwire of October 8, 2000, with Darlene Jespersen's "personal best" photos, starts after these endless updates. You will find additional older news links near the bottom.

Darlene Jespersen
Harrah's Photo

FIRST BREAK DARLENE JESPERSEN, BARTENDER FIRED BY HARRAH'S-RENO FOR REFUSAL TO WEAR MAKEUP, FILES SUIT.

RENO, Nev. (5:24:05 p.m. PDT, July 6, 2001) — Reno attorney Jeffrey Dickerson filed the six-count claim in U.S. District Court in Reno on Friday and demanded trial by jury. For details and analysis, see Barbwire by Barbano in the Sunday, 8 July 2001 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune.
Read the complete text of the federal civil rights filing here.

UPDATE (June 16, 2003) — Jespersen appeals federal court dismissal.

UPDATE (June 29, 2003) — The page you're reading breaks all records in this website's seven years

UPDATE (December 2, 2003) — Jespersen appeal: Oral arguments before Ninth Circuit Dec. 3

UPDATE (February 5, 2004) — Case is about civil rights and sex bias
                                                            Reno Gazette-Journal op-ed: Jespersen in her own words

UPDATE (June 8, 2004) — JESPERSEN LOSES LATEST ROUND. Nevada Supreme Court three-judge panel rules for Harrah's because Nevada is a fire-at-will state. Thus, any employee without a union or personal contract, and making a claim outside currently recognized areas of discrimination, has no claim.

UPDATE (June 13, 2004) — Jespersen appeal helped by decision in case of trans-sexual Ohio firefighter

UPDATE (December 28, 2004) — (AP) By a 2-1 vote, a panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Federal District Judge Ed Reed's dismissal of Jespersen's case. The dissenting judge held that a jury should decide. Lawyers plan an appeal to the full Ninth Circuit. (Harrah's has neither confirmed nor denied rumors of a celebratory expansion of its New Year's Eve menu to include a new entree, Gloating Male Chauvinist Piglet. Gloria Steinem, get your bunny ears out of cold storage and call your office.) READ IT AND WEEP: Download the decision in Adobe Acrobat Reader. WORTH YOUR TIME: Read the more detailed story from the Carson City Nevada Appeal (shades of Justice Sandra Day O'Conner's undue burden arguments in undermining Roe v. Wade). See also veteran reporter Cy Ryan's story from the Las Vegas Sun.

12-29-2004 — Once again, a breaking story about the Jespersen case has sent the traffic count on this page off the charts. Over the past five years, this page has generated the highest traffic ever at NevadaLabor.com.

UPDATE (December 29, 2004) — Nevada Alliance for Workers Rights Executive Director Tom Stoneburner, a party to the appeal, responds to the 9th Circuit decision: Thanks for following and reporting on this issue. This is not a story about one employee, and not just about a very courageous Darlene. It's one that impacts all women in America who are treated differently in the workplace due to their gender. It's a case of a powerful industry crushing a small sign of rebellion in the servants' quarters. Ultimately, this results in women receiving 73 cents to every dollar male workers make. It also impacts women in so many other areas both at home and in the workplace. We at the Alliance for Workers Rights joined in submitting a brief on this case and are disappointed at the decision but the fight is not over. I guess the court's decision and the "pleasure" expressed by Harrah's management at the plantation workers once again being put in their place tells us how far we have to go in achieving equality. Not just at Harrah's plantation, but the rest of the American workplace as well. Darlene will always be a heroine to us at AWR. Anyway, AWR says thanks for your attention on this one. Solidarity, Stoney

Click here for NevadaLabor.com editor's response to Tom Stoneburner.

THE CONSERVATIVE WASHINGTON TIMES (Jan. 11, 2005/UPI) — "Personal Best" not up to par

ALTERNET.ORG COLUMNIST ANNALEE NEWITZ (1-12-2005)— "Wear it, bitch"

PRIGGISHLY PIGGISH PLETHORA PROLIFERATES (2-18-2005)Borgata Atantic City sets weight limit for cocktail servers

SPARKS TRIBUNE (3-17-2005) JESPERSEN SPEAKS AT RENO RALLY FOR WORKPLACE EQUALITY

BARBWIRE BY BARBANO (Sparks Tribune 5-15-2005) — Ninth Circuit reverses its own three-judge panel, orders en banc 11-judge hearing of Jespersen case. Gowabunga!

BREAKING NEWS 5-16-2005

San Francisco — Just three days after publishing its reversal, the Ninth Circuit has fast-tracked Darlene Jespersen's en banc hearing. A full court of 11 judges will hear arguments in San Francisco on June 22, 2005. Keep an eye on this website for updates.

6-23-2005 — 9th Circuit hears arguments in the landmark lipstick lawsuit

A full court of 11 judges heard arguments in The City on June 22, 2005.

NevadaLabor.com exclusive report from the courtroom.

1-30-2006— International petition & ad campaign announced for Darlene Jespersen
       
Turn on, tune in and tell a friend.

BAD NEWS ON GOOD FRIDAY: Fired Harrah's-Reno bartender Darlene Jespersen denied her day in court — Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules for Harrah's 7-4, validating her termination for refusal to wear makeup.

Update: Friday, April 14, 2006, 5:41 p.m. PDT — FROM JUDGE ALEX KOZINSKI'S DISSENT: "I agree with Judge Pregerson and join his dissent—subject to one caveat: I believe that Jespersen also presented a triable issue of fact on the question of disparate burden....Finally, I note with dismay the employer’s decision to let go a valued, experienced employee who had gained accolades from her customers, over what, in the end, is a trivial matter. Quality employees are difficult to find in any industry and I would think an employer would long hesitate before forcing a loyal, long-time employee to quit over an honest and heartfelt difference of opinion about a matter of personal significance to her. Having won the legal battle, I hope that Harrah’s will now do the generous and decent thing by offering Jespersen her job back, and letting her give it her personal best— without the makeup." (Download the entire decision in Adobe Acrobat Reader .pdf format. If you don't have Acrobat Reader, you may download it free from Adobe.com.)

POSTMORTEM ANALYSIS: Barbwire by Barbano: Humpty Dumpty justice, Sparks Tribune 4-16-2006; plus commentary by Jespersen attorney Jenny Pizer.

THE LATEST, 5-13-2007
Darlene Jespersen in new Hollywood feature-length documentary
BARBWIRE: Daily Sparks Tribune 5-13-2007

AS ALWAYS, MONITOR NEVADALABOR.COM FOR UPDATES.

ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS.

Be well. Raise hell.

FAQ: No, I have no denser scans of the photos, below, which would be more suitable for magazine use. I returned the originals to Ms. Jespersen after scanning them only for web purposes. Sorry I didn't anticipate the international demand. Who knew? AB

BARBWIRE
The true face of Nevada gambling
by
ANDREW BARBANO
Expanded from the 10-8-2000 Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., dreamed of a day when his children would be judged by the content of their character. That day is not yet. This country remains stuck in its adolescence.

We are ruled by pimpled sophomores socialized into stepping on the freshmen below them. The anything-goes, morality-neutral ethics of Ronald Reagan's Wall Street have become mainstream. Power suits, power lunches, power PC's. It's more important to look good than feel good.

Sooner or later, the cold cruelty of the ruling sophomore class comes home to any naive American dreamer who still believes that hard work and loyalty will be rewarded.

Darlene Jespersen
Harrah's Photo
For 21 years, Darlene Jespersen worked hard for Harrah's-Reno. Then came the new, ironically named "Personal Best" program. Jesperson's best was not good enough and she was fired.

Her crime? Refusal to paint herself up like a whore.

As noted in this column on June 11, Harrah's has begun to implement a personal appearance code throughout the corporation.

In the finest Orwellian fashion, the company announced it as a new perk for workers who come in contact with the gambling public —makeovers supposedly worth $3,000 each from some muffin and her outfit from Las Vegas.
Ms. Muffin even advises workers on how to brush their tongues. (I could never work at Harrah's. Brushing never makes my tongue look good, so I use a comb.)

As I noted in June, Harrah's has always had a cookie-cutter employment policy. The late Bill Harrah hisself promulgated appearance rules. Those who did not fit were not hired. Anyone on the edge lived in jeopardy of losing his livelihood.

Back in the 1970s, a friend of mine had a roommate who would eat nothing but a solitary boiled hot dog for dinner. No bread, no condiments, not even a cracker.

The big guy was under extreme pressure to shed some pounds or lose his Harrah's casino management job. But management doesn't really care about your health.

The Personal Best Program requires you to "be able to tolerate second-hand smoke." Hasn't Miss Muffin from Gomorrah South informed them that cigarette smoke causes facial wrinkles?

A Personal Best introductory letter from Harrah's-Reno Food and Beverage Manager Brent Skidmore speaks of "Selection and hiring processes: New selection and hiring tools will help us make sure we get good people like you to work with us — and that once hired, they stay with us."

This sounds like a hint of the darker side of casino hiring about which I have often written. Several times, I have published illegal policies from another downtown Reno casino, rules designed to screen out those who might know something about workers' rights and fight for unionization.


DARLENE JESPERSEN

OFFICIAL HARRAH'S PERSONAL BEST PHOTO (without makeup)

Darlene Jespersen was flown to Las Vegas for a live appearance on "CBS This Morning."

Speaking for Harrah's was none other than former Las Vegas Mayor and current VP in Charge of Looking Out the Window Jan Laverty Jones Scheutz.

The gambling-industrial complex has adopted the public relations strategy of big tobacco. Hire a pleasant-looking, smiling woman to put a pretty face on your gruesome, exploitive business.

Notwithstanding a political career promoting herself as defender of women's rights, the two-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate disgraced herself.

First and foremost, she baldfacedly asserted that "over 74 positions" were available to Jespersen which paid the same but did not require makeup.

Jespersen twice refuted her, stating "I was reassigned back to personnel. I had 30 days to find another job. For those 30 days, I was not being paid. None (of the jobs) would support me and makeup would be an issue again," she politely noted.

"Do you see it as discriminatory?" asked the CBS anchor from New York.

"Yes, I do. This involves a lot of women's issues," Jespersen said.

"Las Vegas is union and in Reno, we're not."

Earlier, she observed "if I were a man, this would be a non-issue."

Indeed, male employees are forbidden from wearing makeup in the new policy.

The Personal Best policy is cruel and unusual. Once you're photographed after your Miss Muffin Makeover, you are expected to remain that way the rest of your life. Your work clothes sizes can only be altered if you've had a boob job. (Ironically, actress Mariel Hemingway underwent breast implantation surgery before starring in a movie entitled "Personal Best." She later announced their removal, perhaps the only time it's ever happened in Hollywood.)

Culinary Union organizer D. Taylor called the new rules "tantamount to saying working mothers need not apply."

I've not only met Darlene Jespersen, I've seen her Personal Best makeover photos. She's a polite and attractive woman. The pictures are quite flattering. (You'll find them posted with this column.)

Supposedly setting the standard she is supposed to meet forevermore, she wears no makeup in those photos. You'd never know it. Her natural coloring is fine, her eyelashes and eyebrows need no enhancement.

Alas, in the Jan Jones world, successful women wear makeup.

Period.

About a decade ago, Ms. Magazine stopped accepting advertising when Revlon backed out of a major commitment after years of sales effort to accommodate the cosmetics giant.

The reason for Revlon's reluctance: a cover photo promoting a story about the innovative young female doctors of the new Russia. The four featured MD's were wearing no makeup. Unacceptable. Successful women wear makeup, dammit. (Most physicians in Russia are women.)

Ms. lost the ads. Darlene Jespersen lost her job. Jan Jones sold her soul.

Jespersen's looking for a lawyer to make good her damages. I don't know where Jones can go to redeem herself.

Be well. Raise hell.

Read More About It

Jespersen Sues Harrahs' from the Sunday, July 8, 2001, Daily Sparks Tribune

Read the complete text of the federal civil rights filing

Jespersen v. Harrah's— The Reno Gazette-Journal front page story

Jespersen v. Harrah's— The Associated Press national wire story

Las Vegas — Kiss my foot, boss! Jespersen supports cocktail servers rally at Venetian Megaresort on Las Vegas Strip

SIT ON THIS — Mirage cocktail waitresses win round in federal court against Steve Wynn, who called them "fat asses"
      FOR MUCH MORE go to "Tales of the Sagebrush Plantation," here.

Supremes rule that one sexual remark is not harassment

Las Vegas-- Dolores Huerta Center helps low-wage workers

Harrah's implements personal best program amid protests in Atlantic City
(This Press of Atlantic City link is now stale.)

The Press of Atlantic City editorially trashes Harrah's cookie-cutter employee appearance program (This link is now stale.)

FLASH! Jespersen story makes FOX News, Mother Jones, People Magazine and Oprah Winfrey's Oxygen cable TV network site

Go to Oprah's Oxygen Channel to e-mail your opinion and join the Oxygen.com Harrah's BOYCOTT (This link is now stale.)

Hookers vs. Harrah's

FLASH! Ex-Harrah's bartender Darlene Jespersen wins
Mother Jones Magazine HELLRAISER Award

Workers protest policies demeaning to women at Harrah's in Reno and Las Vegas

Harrah's dress policy outrages citizens

Bill Harrah's back and boy, is he pissed!

Lawsuit claims Harrah's at fault in California woman's shooting

Harrah's-Reno fires bartender for refusing to wear makeup

KISS MY FOOT! David & Goliath force the worker bees to heel

Clinging to the Ledge: high heels & forced overtime hearing

These heels aren't made for walking

5 of 6 pregnant cocktail servers settle with LV Imperial Palace

 


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Andrew Barbano is a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com.
   
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