CanI be fired ifI refused to bartend in a bikini?

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CanI be fired ifI refused to bartend in a bikini?

I signed a contract when starting the bartending job saying that I had to participate in the “events” that they had or else I would be fired. But when they asked me to bartend in a bikini and I couldn’t wear anything else, I said that I wouldn’t do it and got fired. Do I have a case? And we also have only female bartenders and out of the 8 of us only 4 of us were put on the schedule to do it (me being one of them). We have bouncers and cooks and the off-duty ones that night don’t have to come in and get paid for showing off their bodies. Should I speak with an employment law attorney? In Allegheny County, PA.

Asked on April 13, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that in most states employment relationships are what is known as "at will", and TX is no exception.  What this means is that basically an employer can hire or fire someone for any reason or no reason whatsoever, as well has increase/decrease salary/hours, promote/demote, and generally impose requirements as it sees fit; including establishing a dress code.  An employee in turn can choose to work for an employer or quit.   

However, there are exceptions.  If there is a stated company policy contrary to the way in which your situation has been handled, or if there is a union/employment agreement that does not allow for such action, or this situation has arisen due to some type of discrimination (i.e., for reasons due to your race, religion, age, disability, sex, national origin).  Specifically, with repect to discrimination, there was a lawsuit against a nationally known restaurant chain.  The court held that an employer may require workers to follow a uniform dress code even if the dress code conflicts with some workers’ beliefs or practices.  It held that certain jobs are gender-specific with specific wardrobe requirements ("Hooter's girl").  However, other roles such as bartender or cookstaff are gender-neutral and a specific wardrobe is not necessary for the performance of these jobs.

Additionally, there is the fact that some but not all bartenders were required to wear bikinis.  Consequently, you may have a case here.  However, this is a highly complex area of the law.  At this point you may want to consult with an employment attorney.  Give them all the particulars of your case and they will determine whether or not you have a legitimate claim.


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