Suit: Bikini Baristas Say Bare-Skin Ban Impedes 1st Amendment Rights

Suit: Bikini Baristas Say Bare-Skin Ban Impedes 1st Amendment Rights
Rhett Pardon

EVERETT, Wash. — Bikini baristas working in the city of Everett, Wash., claimed in a federal lawsuit filed today that a new ordinance that went into effect last week violates their constitutional rights to free expression and the right to privacy.

The new ordinance? A law dictating a dress code banning bare midriffs, exposed shoulders, shorts or bikinis in quick-serve food and beverage businesses.

City leaders in Everett are planning to provide picture diagrams to help illustrate the new requirements — but in the meantime bikini-barista workers will be required to wear at least shorts and a tank top, according to the Seattle Times.

The Times noted that the new laws effectively abolish the bikini-barista business model in Everett.

Owners found violating the new dress code will be required to obtain a probationary license, the Times said. With two additional violations, their business could be shut down.

Today, seven bikini baristas and an owner of a chain of bikini coffee stands claimed in a suit filed at U.S. District Court in Seattle that the new regs deny employees the ability to communicate and express themselves through their choice of swimwear, infringe on their right to privacy and deny them due process.

The suit asks the federal court to declare unconstitutional the ordinances, which were instituted by city leaders after they addressed a proliferation of crimes occurring at local bikini-barista stands.

“The ordinances, on their face violate the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and are unconstitutionally vague, as applied and in violation of the due process guarantee of the 14th Amendment. The ordinances also deprive the baristas of their 5th and 14th Amendment rights and discriminate against women,” lawyers for the baristas said in a statement.

The plaintiffs argue in the suit that their right to privacy would be violated if officers were to inspect them to ensure that they were following the rules.

For example, the suit claims, the ordinance prohibits baristas from exposing “more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola” and the “bottom one-half of the anal cleft.”

Officers, the suit said, would have to perform a “humiliating and intrusive” examination of suspect’s naked breasts to ascertain where the areola is and how much of the breast, relative to it, is exposed.

“These ordinances set back women’s rights by 50 years,” plaintiff Leah Humphrey said in a statement.