Jespersen v. Harrah’s Operating Co., 444 F.3d 1104 (9th Cir. 2006) (en banc)

Darlene Jespersen, a former bartender in the sports bar at Harrah’s Casino in Reno, filed this Title VII action, alleging the casino had discriminated against her on the basis of her sex when she was fired for refusing to comply with the casino’s appearance standards policy requiring all female beverage servers to wear makeup. (Harrah’s “Personal Best” appearance standards also required that male employees maintain short haircuts and neatly trimmed fingernails.) The district court granted summary judgment to the employer, and the Ninth Circuit (sitting en banc) affirmed that judgment after concluding that “grooming standards that appropriately differentiate between the genders are not facially discriminatory.” The Court determined that Jespersen had failed to provide evidence that Harrah’s “Personal Best” appearance standards policy imposed unequal burdens on male and female employees. Further, the Court held that Harrah’s policy was not based on sex stereotypes. It applied to all bartenders, regardless of sex, and most of it applied to both sexes equally. Women were not asked to dress suggestively or provocatively in a way that would stereotype women as sex objects. Moreover, Harrah’s grooming policy did not create a hostile work environment. The only evidence to support Jespersen’s claim was her own subjective reaction to the makeup requirement. There was no objective evidence that the grooming standards would impair a woman’s ability to do her job.