Former Bartender's Suit Heard in Appeals Court

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A former Harrah's Reno bartender fired for refusing to wear makeup has taken her sex-discrimination lawsuit to a federal appeals court.

It could be months before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rules on Darlene Jespersen's lawsuit. A three-judge panel heard oral arguments last week.

Senior U.S. District Judge Edward Reed ruled against her last year, concluding the casino's appearance standards are evenly applied to both sexes.

Jespersen was fired in August 2000 from Harrah's, where she had worked for 21 years. She maintained that wearing makeup should be a personal choice and had nothing to do with her job performance.

The appearance standards were put in place at 20 of the company's casinos nationwide in 2000.

"Women are very capable without makeup," Jespersen told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "We shouldn't be considered little tokens or dolls. We shouldn't have to put on masks."

But Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson said he thinks the appeals court will toss her lawsuit.

"The main position is that the court has upheld an employer's right to impose reasonable grooming and cleanliness standards, particularly for employees who are serving the public," Thompson said.

Harrah's policy requires female employees to wear makeup and lipstick. Male workers are forbidden to wear makeup, ponytails or hair below the top of their shirt collar.

Jespersen, who now works as a greeter at a Reno store, said the policy might have changed her life but it didn't quash her desire for justice. Her suit is seeking more than $50,000 in damages.

"My career as a casino bartender is over," she said. "But it would have been degrading to do what they wanted me to do. We have civil rights and laws to protect us."