Former Harrah's Bartender Loses High Court Appeal

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A former Harrah's Reno bartender lost Monday in efforts to get the Nevada Supreme Court to find that Harrah's erred in firing her for refusing to abide by a policy requiring women employees to wear makeup.

The high court ruled against Darlene Jespersen, who was fired in August 2000 and now works as a greeter in a Reno store. Jespersen also filed a sex-discrimination case in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Jespersen, who worked at Harrah's for 21 years, maintained that wearing makeup should be a personal choice and had nothing to do with her job performance. She has said women "shouldn't be considered little tokens or dolls" and made "to put on masks."

A "personal best" policy requiring women to wear makeup and lipstick was put in place at 20 of the company's casinos nationwide in April 2000. Male workers are forbidden to wear makeup, ponytails or hair below the top of their shirt collar.

But Jespersen said a gender-based policy on makeup had been in effect for more than 10 years at Harrah's Reno - and wasn't enforced in her case because her employers knew that makeup "made her feel extremely uncomfortable, ... ill and violated."

In ruling against Jespersen, justices said she didn't claim that Harrah's promised to not enforce the makeup requirement for as long as she worked for the corporation, or promise that she could be dismissed only for good cause.

The court, upholding a decision by Washoe County District Judge Brent Adams, also noted that in Nevada an employer can fire at-will workers - including casino bartenders - for any reason.

"Thus, even if the non-enforcement of the policy did create an expectation that Jespersen would be continually allowed to forgo wearing makeup, this expectation is insufficient to convert an at-will employment into one allowing termination only for cause," justices wrote.

The Supreme Court order was signed by Chief Justice Miriam Shearing and Justices Bob Rose and Michael Douglas.