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Bikini baristas sue Everett over dress code ordinances, bare skin ban

KOMO file photo

EVERETT, Wash. (KOMO) - A group of bikini baristas filed a lawsuit against the city of Everett in federal court Monday alleging that two new ordinances banning bare skin at expresso stands violate their constitutional rights.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, claims the dress-code ordinances - which ban bare midriffs, shoulders, breasts and buttocks - violate the baristas' rights to free expression and their right to privacy. The ordinances also discriminate specifically against women, the lawsuit says.

"The city (of Everett) knows only women work as bikini baristas, and intentionally targeted women through the ordinances," Derek Newman, attorney for the baristas, said in a prepared statement.

One of the baristas involved in the lawsuit, Natalie Bjerk, added, "This is about women’s rights. The City Council should not tell me what I can and cannot wear when I go to work - it’s a violation of my First Amendment rights."

According to the lawsuit, the city of Everett violated the baristas' right to equal protection, discriminated against women, is a violation of protected freedom of speech and did not provide due process.

Another plaintiff, Leah Humphrey, said, "These ordinances set back women’s rights by 50 years."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include seven baristas and an owner of a chain of bikini coffee stands, who argue that the new ordinances effectively abolish all bikini barista stands in Everett, putting women out of work or at the very least reducing their income from tips.

The lawsuit also claims that the city of Everett has no evidence that bikini barista stands contribute to increased crime, the delinquency of minors, decreased property values or any of the other negative impacts claimed by the City Council.

"The city’s legislative record does not support that these conditions exist as a result of the stands - much less that a dress code ordinance will meet these goals," the baristas said in a statement.

In addition, the ordinances force baristas to undergo a "humilating and intrusive examination" by police so that the officer "can calculate whether her clothing choice exposes more than the law allows," the lawsuit says

The plaintiffs also make the case that the SeaGals attire - which consists of very short shorts, pushup bras, and bare midriffs - would be illegal under the Everett ordinances, yet they perform in front of 60,000-plus people every game day and at numerous charity events.

“I choose my own clothing at work, and for me, the message I send is freedom," said plaintiff Liberty Ziska. "Millions of women fought for our rights and right to vote, and it’s my right to wear what I want. It’s my right as a person. There is nothing unhealthy, obscene, or contrary to the public good in the barista’s garments."

The ordinances require the workers to wear a minimum of tank tops and shorts. It specifically requires employees at "quick service" restaurants, which also include fast food and food trucks, to adhere to the dress code.

The baristas' lawsuit was first reported by The Seattle Times.


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