Strippers Have Rights Too

Strippers Have Rights Too

There have been two recent stories about strippers and discrimination in the news lately.

Sarah Tressler is a journalist who worked her way through journalism school stripping. Her newspaper employer fired her when they found out she was moonlighting as a stripper. She claims gender discrimination. The newspaper says they fired her for failing to disclose it on her application. Her double life was uncovered by a rival paper. It probably didn't help that she was blogging about her exploits.

An Indiana stripper has filed sexual harassment charges against her employer. She alleges severe physical and verbal sexual harassment.

While many sexual harassers (and their employers) seem to think that "she asked for it" is a defense, it's not. Just because a woman takes her clothes off for a living does not mean that she welcomes groping and sexual advances from her employer. Whether she works for Hooters, as a professional sports cheerleader, or as a stripper, women who dress and act sexy for a living can't be sexually harassed. If advances are unwelcome, they are illegal. The employer must create a safe workplace, free from sexual harassment. While being leered at may be part of the job, being groped isn't.

Now, going back to Tressler, I guess it depends on the totality of the facts. If the judge and/or the jury finds that the employer requires disclosure of an employee's full employment history and/or second jobs, and they fire everyone who doesn't disclose, the employer may be able to convince them it had a legitimate reason for the firing. If not, then the question will be whether men have had similar jobs and weren't fired.

For instance, if they say it's her blog they don't like, then if other male bloggers haven't been fired, it could be sex discrimination. If men have worked as waiters wearing skimpy outfits, as dancers for bachelorette parties, or posing for pinup calendars and weren't fired, then the newspaper will have a hard time proving she wasn't singled out due to her gender.

Strippers and other women (and men) who have jobs that require little or no clothing still have rights. Those rights include the right not to be discriminated against and the right not to be sexually harassed. There is no stripper exemption to Title VII.

See more employment law posts on Donna Ballman's blog, Screw You Guys, I'm Going Home

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