The city passed an ordinance in 2017 requiring “quick service” workers to cover their upper and lower body, the Daily Herald reported. The owner of the stand, Hillbilly Hotties, and several of its employees challenged the rule, arguing the outfits are a method of self-expression and that the rule violated their First Amendment rights.
A U.S. District Court in Seattle found the city’s dress code violated the Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. and Washington state constitutions. U.S. District Judge (GW Bush) Ricardo S. Martinez issued a 19-page ruling explaining that the ordinance was at least partially shaped by a gender-based discriminatory purpose.
“The record shows this Ordinance was passed in part to have an adverse impact on female workers at bikini barista stands, there is evidence in the record that the bikini barista profession, clearly a target of the Ordinance, is entirely or almost entirely female. It is difficult to imagine how this Ordinance would be equally applied to men and women in practice.”
The ruling noted the ordinance bans clothing “typically worn by women rather than men,” such as midriff and scoop-back shirts, as well as bikinis.
“Assuming the owners of bikini barista stands are unable or unwilling to enforce this dress code, at some point law enforcement will be asked to measure exposure of skin by some method,” the ruling said. “This ‘encourage(s) a humiliating, intrusive, and demoralizing search on women, disempowering them and stripping them of their freedom.’”
The owner of Everett bikini barista stand Hillbilly Hotties and some employees filed a legal complaint challenging the constitutionality of the dress code ordinance. Plaintiffs included stand owner Jovanna Edge and employees Natalie Bjerke, Matteson Hernandez, Leah Humphrey, Amelia Powell and Liberty Ziska.
The legal complaint also challenged the city’s lewd conduct ordinance, a law that expanded the definition of a lewd act to include exposure of “more than one-half of the part of the female breast located below the top of the areola,” “the genitals, anus, bottom one-half of the anal cleft or any portion of the areola or nipple of the female breast” and created the new crime of facilitating lewd conduct.
On Tuesday night at Hillbilly Espresso, a drive-thru barista greeted customers in a Lily Munster costume at the corner of Rucker Avenue and 41st Street in Everett. The barista, who identified herself as Emma Dilemma, declined to give her last name for privacy reasons. She said she was relieved to hear news of the court’s ruling, adding that the ordinance enacted “weird” rules that would make her and other employees feel uncomfortable.
“I think this protects our safety from law enforcement touching our body,” she said. “Who’s approving my outfit? Is it my female boss or some random dude cop that I don’t know? I don’t want them having to stick a ruler next to my body.”