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60-Year-Old Strip Club Waitress Wins Age Discrimination Lawsuit

60-Year-Old Strip Club Waitress Wins Age Discrimination Lawsuit

Mary Bassi, a former waitress in a strip club, claims that she was fired for being too old, and sued her employers for age discrimination.  In the lawsuit, she claimed that she was teased about Alzheimer’s disease and menopause, repeatedly asked to say how old she was, and finally fired at the age of 56, although she had been performing her job well and had received no disciplinary action.  In the months leading up to her firing, she says that her employers started hiring younger waitresses and scheduling them in her place.  She was backed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and just settled for $60,000.

“You can’t discriminate against people because of age regardless of what industry they work in,” said her attorney, Connie Wilhite.  She explained that age discrimination is a particularly difficult issue for people in the adult entertainment industry, where youth is highly prized.  “It lets them know that they’re not just a value because of their youth.  They can’t be run out of any industry as they get older.”

As Anna North points out, writing for Jezebel, employment discrimination can be a particularly tricky issue for strip clubs.  She references a case last year where a bartender sued her employees for demoting her to a cashier position during her pregnancy; a 44-year-old Canadian stripper also sued because she said that her employers wanted younger women. 

The issue is further complicated by the fact that many strip club owners and managers see their female employees’ attractiveness (which is usually synonymous with youth) as an objective marker of merit.  It has been argued that there are different standards for measuring how strippers and other women in adult entertainment are performing, because conforming to a particular physical appearance is a part of the job description.  This does not, of course, excuse discrimination on the basis of age, marital status, size, sexual orientation, or any other criteria, but it does make it challenging to force employers to realize that they cannot simply hire and fire women on a whim.

This, of course, wasn’t an issue for Bassi, because as a waitress, her age or physical appearance would not have stopped her from serving food.  The case seems to be a clear example of age discrimination, in an industry that sees youth as an integral part of its narrow conception of competence and beauty.

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Photo from Marcelo at OpenPhoto.net.

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128 comments

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8:17AM PDT on Jul 26, 2012

Older people CAN be beautiful if they take care of themselves. Google 70 year old Annette Larkin, or Debbie Merrill. Twenty years ago, we thought the baby boomers would all retire and there wouldn't be enough workers to replace them. Back then we didn't see the recession coming. Now they need to work, and we may see more lawsuits like this one.

6:41AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

thanks for the article

11:56AM PDT on Apr 26, 2011

Go for her!

6:57AM PST on Mar 12, 2011

Waitressing is waitressing and not a problem if you can perform your job. If any patrons wanted more than food service in a strip club, they can get that as well without discriminating against a waitress.

12:03AM PST on Feb 24, 2011

Another tricky issue. Yes, it's age discrimination, but I would think that one of the requirements for working in a strip club was to be young and beautiful -- it's not like working in an office where only your office skills are being evaluated, not your looks. Good for her that she got some money out of it, which she'll need, but the whole idea of strip clubs is sensuousness, right?

Confusing to me, because I see strip clubs as demeaning to women, so it's hard for me to make a plausible feminist case for this.

3:27AM PST on Feb 20, 2011

Of COURSE it's age discrimination, but sorry, guys! I'm female, but I hope I use a bit more common sense when it comes to this stuff. Even if she managed to serve her customers food without any issue, it was a STRIP CLUB, for crying out loud! I'm sure the clientele expected something different. If she still got good tips (which is an indication of how much she was appreciated by customers), then that would be one thing. If not, then she wasn't doing her job......plain & simple. A strip club operates to promote sexual attractiveness. It's a pretty plain & simple concept. Nobody would go in there expecting for Maxine to wait on them, anymore than I, as a female, would go in a womans club and have some guy that looked like one of the crew of the Black Pearl waiting on me! I'd go elsewhere. Maybe the club was losing business. It's no different than a movie that wants to portray a character that is supposed to be a young, beautiful woman (called for in the script) turn down over 50 actresses. If they didn't, then the movie wouldn't make money. Want to speculate that IF "Gone with the Wind" had cast Kathy Bates to play Scarlett O'Hara it would have been as successful? No disrespect to Bates.....she's a brilliant actress, but she couldn't have pulled it off as the beautiful heroine opposite Clark Gable! People expect a certain atmosphere in a strip club, and grandma types aren't what is expected, no matter if they spill the drinks or not.

2:06PM PST on Feb 19, 2011

In Nevada you can get rid of anyone at any time is what I"ve heard.

9:23AM PST on Jan 27, 2011

You go girl!!!

3:51PM PST on Jan 26, 2011

Since she was still bringing in a clientele, thus making the establishment money, she should have been able to keep her job. If there were no other problems, that leaves age as the reason...

Good for her.

Amber, it is only during the probationary period you could get fired for no reason. After a certain time, the employer has to have due cause. Nothing is not due cause.

Anyway, I don't look my age, so, go figure. It runs in my family that we look younger than what we are.

8:02PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

good for her.

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