Serving coffee drinks while wearing a two-piece swimsuit is protected by the United States Constitution as freedom of expression, or so says a group of baristas in Everett, Washington. The city of Everett, located about 30 miles north of Seattle, recently passed ordinances prohibiting restaurant-industry workers from wearing bikinis on the job. Now, seven baristas are suing for their right to show some skin, reports the Seattle Times.
The Everett City Council passed the ordinances in an attempt to curb “a proliferation of crimes of a sexual nature occurring at bikini barista stands” in the town. In 2009, an undercover police sting busted a prostitution ring run out of a barista stand called, not so subtly, Grab N Go. At the time, officials in Everett, which sounds like a pretty wild town, considered updates to the city’s lewd conduct ordinance to cover barista stands, but they did not intend to ban bikinis. That changed with new regulations passed this summer.
The ordinances, which may be enough to make prudish city officials blush, specifically ban “exposure or display of one's genitals, anus, bottom one-half of the anal cleft, or any portion of the areola or nipple of the female breast; or an exposure of more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola, provided that the covered area shall be covered by opaque material and coverage shall be contiguous to the areola.” They go on to clarify that “body paint is not ‘opaque material.’”
It isn’t clear who, exactly, would determine what constitutes the “bottom one-half of the anal cleft,” or what methods might be used to make that judgement. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed Monday in the United States District Court Western District of Washington, argue the new rules clearly violate the First Amendment.
“This is not about the bikini,” Schuyler Lifschultz, an attorney representing the baristas, told the Times. “It’s about women’s rights and the U.S. Constitution. The City of Everett violated these women’s rights across the board.”
In addition to alleging a First Amendment violation, the lawsuit also cites the Fourteenth Amendment, which requires all U.S. citizens to be treated equally under the law. “The Citywide Ordinance requires all women, not men, in Everett to cover more than three-quarters of their breasts while in public areas,” reads an excerpt of the initial court filing. “Portions of the Citywide Ordinance only apply to women, specifying restrictions applicable only to the ‘female breast.’ Women are a protected class.”
The lawsuit requests damages and for a federal judge to declare the city ordinances unconstitutional.