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'Scanty Uniforms' Lawsuit

June 07, 1986

Bravo for Kathy Boyer! Reading about her lawsuit against the Rusty Pelican brought back memories for me--and stirred some emotions.

In 1971-1972, I worked as a waitress at the Ancient Mariner in Mill Valley, a chain of restaurants owned by the same company that started the Rusty Pelican.

When I started working there, the uniforms for waitresses consisted of navy blue shorts (of modest length) and sailor tops with a discreet V-neckline. We wore blue canvas deck shoes. I thought the uniforms were attractive and comfortable.

Then we heard that the owners were having the uniforms redesigned. (Just for the waitresses--the men would still be wearing slacks and sport shirts.) The new design turned out to be a variation on the sailor theme--just "a little sexier," according to management. Now the fabric became a little clingier, the V-neckline plunged a bit lower, and the shorts were replaced by a very short skirt to be worn over--are you ready?--white ruffled panties.

So that nothing should be missed, the skirt was cut higher in the back to reveal the many layers of our ruffled behinds. To complete our new "look" we were now required to wear high-heels.

Complaints came from everywhere--the waitresses, the waiters, busboys, bartenders and customers. One longtime male customer, lunching on the first day of the new uniforms, told me sincerely and earnestly that I must tell the managers not to make us wear these horrible things. One early evening, when I was the only cocktail waitress on duty, a woman customer got up from her table and discreetly whispered to the hostess to "please tell the cocktail girl that her skirt is hiked up in the back." The humiliation was complete.

I decided to write a letter of protest to the owners. I polled the employees and got the support of everyone I spoke to; even some customers said they'd sign the letter. I wrote a good one, too--respectful yet persuasive and firm. And everyone chickened out. Not one person would risk the consequences of signing the letter.

I was deflated. I quit my job. I guess I was young and things were different. I'd like to think that if I were working there today I'd have been the woman in your article.

I don't know if the same owners are still involved. It's clear that the same mentality is--all except for Boyer. She's come a long way from where we were in 1972. I wish her victory. It will be sweet for me, too.

MELISSA POLK HEINING

Los Angeles

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