Dear Dr. Phil, I need help with my makeup
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently was reported to have terminated an employee for having the audacity to play solitaire on his work computer. Depending on your perspective, this was A) justified or B) an obvious abuse of an employee’s “rights.” If you’ve frequented This Place before, you know that your host—perhaps much like the aforementioned mayor—is ostensibly a hapless fuddy-duddy way out of step with the times for thinking employees at work should, well, like, you know, work.To that extent, your host—having worked many different jobs—is no stranger to the language of permissible and prohibited employee activities contained in employment manuals. (I’ve also written a few.)
Most fall into what I call the “duh” category. You know, difficult and incomprehensibly unfair things like be polite; the deep fryer is hot; wear clean clothes; knives are sharp; bathe frequently; and my personal favorite, wash your hands after using the restroom. These are things people should have learned by kindergarten but must be reminded of by signs, placards and a 3-inch-thick employee manual as fully functioning adults.
The point is when you work for someone, you have to play by their rules, regardless of whether they make sense to you. As the saying goes, “Your boss may not always be right, but they’re always the boss.” For the overly sensitive people who believe this seems a trifle unfair, here’s a newsflash that even my kindergartener has learned: Life isn’t always fair. Deal with it.
That said, short of health or safety issues, I really don’t have much use for people who try to make a federal case over perceived “employee rights” violations. (If the concept of cleaning restrooms or digging ditches is offensive or demeaning to you, then you should find another line of work or perhaps consider self-employment.)
Which brings me to this déjà vu topic: One Darlene Jespersen, a bartender, sued her former employer, Harrah’s Casino, for implementing a personal grooming standard, which required, among other things, that female bartenders and beverage servers wear makeup.
Rather than simply finding another employer who didn’t have such requirements, she felt compelled to sue in federal court alleging sexual discrimination. (Men, after all, aren’t required to wear makeup. How unfair is that?) She claimed she “felt degraded and very demeaned” by the policy.
I covered this subject back when it was rightly bounced out of the courts last year ("A good role model is hard to find,” Jan. 6, 2005). Jespersen apparently appealed because in a recent 7-4 decision, the 9th Circuit Court said that Harrah’s makeup requirement didn’t impose “an unequal burden on women,” or at least, she hadn’t proved it did.
While I’m all for equality between the sexes, let’s be honest. “Equal” doesn’t mean “the same.” For example, the odds are slim that a woman will ever qualify as an NFL linebacker or that I will ever give birth to a child.
In any event, women (and men) have been adorning themselves with pelts, paints, piercings, and other such accoutrements since time began. I am quite certain “makeup,” in its current form, has been a culturally accepted practice among women for at least a century.
Now those who wish to rebel and personally reject such “culturally imposed gender stereotypes” should, by all means, have at it. But your employer shouldn’t have to change all of civilization to accommodate you.
I know, that doesn’t seem terribly fair, but much in life isn’t. If you can’t handle it, seek counseling from Dr. Phil.