Everett’s dress code ordinance for fast service workers can be enforced after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments by bikini baristas that it infringed on their First Amendment rights. The city dress code requires quick service employees to wear clothing that covers the upper and lower body. (City of Everett)

Everett’s dress code ordinance for fast service workers can be enforced after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear arguments by bikini baristas that it infringed on their First Amendment rights. The city dress code requires quick service employees to wear clothing that covers the upper and lower body. (City of Everett)

U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear Everett bikini barista argument

The issue likely isn’t over and it’s unlikely the baristas will be forced to button-up anytime soon.

EVERETT — The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from Everett bikini baristas who argue that a city dress code ordinance violates their First Amendment rights.

The rejection delivered in March ends a temporary injunction placed by a U.S. District Court judge that blocked enforcement of the code. However, it is unlikely the baristas will be forced to button up anytime soon.

While enforcement could begin immediately, deputy city attorney Ramsey Ramerman said with COVID-19 stretching resources, the ordinance “… is a lower priority issue than other issues we’ve been dealing with.”

Additionally, the city informally agreed to provide the baristas with 30 days’ notice before enforcing the ordinance.

“Our clients aren’t concerned about compliance right now,” said Derek Newman, a lawyer for the workers.

Rejection from the high court was not a surprise. After filing the case in February, Newman told The Daily Herald the likelihood of the case being accepted was “extremely low” based on the number of cases petitioned annually.

Lawyers for the city chose not to file a response to the Supreme Court in mid-February.

“We didn’t see (the petition) as having any realistic chance of being accepted and we just wanted to get it resolved as quick as possible,” Ramerman said.

In its 2019-20 term, the Supreme Court agreed to hear 74 cases.

The case now returns to Federal District Court in Seattle for a resolution. While the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the baristas’ First Amendment argument will likely stand at the district level, the baristas also have a 14th Amendment equal protection case that has not yet been ruled on.

“This is a case where a law discriminates against women, it doesn’t apply to men and that violates the Equal Protections Clause of the United States Constitution,” Newman said.

Both sides are working to agree on an expedited schedule with a goal of submitting written briefs by late summer.

Newman said that regardless of how the District Court rules, it is likely the loser will again appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court and then potentially the Supreme Court once again.

Bikini baristas and the city have been at odds for more than a decade after the Everett Police Department received complaints about the drive-thru coffee stands and an investigation discovered cases of prostitution and indecent exposure.

When citations were ineffective, the department and city collaborated on legislation in the form of a dress code ordinance that said quick service workers must wear at least a tanktop and shorts.

Baristas associated with Hillbilly Hotties, a coffee stand with locations in Everett, sued the city alleging the code infringed on their right to free expression and as well as other First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The plantiffs include Hillbilly Hotties owner Jovanna Edge, and five others who have been employees: Natalie Bjerke, Matteson Hernandez, Leah Humphrey, Amelia Powell and Liberty Ziska.

Ian Davis-Leonard: 435-339-3449; idavisleonard@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @IanDavisLeonard.

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