SEATTLE (CN) – A group of bikini baristas sued the Washington state city of Everett Monday, claiming new ordinances banning bikinis on restaurant workers and restricting how much of a woman’s breast can be exposed violate their civil rights.
The Everett City Council approved new rules in August that require employees of “quick service” restaurants to wear at least shorts and a tank top. A second ordinance that bans the exposure of female breasts was amended to say anyone who “permits, encourages, or causes to be committed” the wearing of a bikini that violates the law is also now a criminal under Everett law.
The city clerk will provide diagrams to illustrate the dress code, according to the ordinance.
According to the city, the new rules are necessary due to sexual crimes, including prostitution, occurring around the bikini barista stands.
Seven baristas and a stand owner say in their federal complaint the ordinances violate their rights to privacy and due process.
“The two new Everett ordinances violate the baristas’ First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution to express themselves in their choice of dress. The ordinances also violate the 14th Amendment right to privacy, personal autonomy, and liberty. The ordinances violate substantive due-process because they are not rationally related to preventing crime. And they are unconstitutionally vague because Everett citizens cannot tell which clothing is acceptable and which is criminal,” the plaintiffs say in the complaint.
The baristas also claim the city violated their right to freedom of expression.
“The plaintiff baristas earn their living working at bikini-barista stands. They wear bikinis while serving coffee to customers in their cars through a drive-through window. They express messages of freedom, openness, acceptance, empowerment, and individuality. By exposing who they are as people through tattoos, scars, and the bikinis that they choose to wear, the baristas exchange conversations with customers about life experiences, personal choices, and other topics that would not otherwise occur. The baristas cannot express these messages and prompt these discussions without the unique expression that wearing a bikini provides,” the complaint says.
“The city knows only women work as bikini baristas, and intentionally targeted women through the ordinances,” Derek Newman, attorney for the baristas with the firm Newman Du Wors, said in a statement.
Plaintiff Amelia Powell, who works at Hillbilly Hotties, said in a radio interview she began working as a bikini barista to make money while attending school. She said her job gave her self-confidence and made her feel better about her body.
“We want to be bikini baristas. We want to wear our bikinis,” she said.
Everett spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said the city would not be commenting on the lawsuit at this time.
The baristas seek damages on claims of civil rights violations, lost income and a judgment that both ordinances are unconstitutional.