Casino cocktail waitresses are like modern day geishas. Forced to dress in tight dresses with a constant smile glued to their faces, they, like many service workers, make their tips by being attractive and friendly to customers. But for the cocktail waitresses that have jammed their feet into ass-popping heels, wearing pumps isn't a matter of choice— it's a casino policy, and it's one that is forcing older cocktail waitresses out of a job. It's become enough of an issue that cocktail waitresses have unionized against the high heel policy, because it's 2013 and that's the kind of world we live in.
Located in Connecticut, Foxwoods Resort Casino is a complex of six casinos, making it the second biggest casino in the U.S. The hundreds of cocktail waitresses that work there had been working under a 2-inch heel requirement, which was recently rescinded, but Foxwood's management still requires their cocktail waitresses to wear polishable black shoes, subject to approval. That's code for "we get to decide if it's sexy enough." If servers suffer from foot problems, they can be exempted from the uncomfortably sexy shoes, but if the issue persists after one year, they would have to resign or take another position, according to a union representative serving several hundred Foxwoods workers.
The repercussions of such a policy put older cocktail workers' jobs at risk. Cheryl Haase has been serving cocktails at Foxwoods for over 20 years, and she reports that walking miles in her heels has caused serious inflammation, with many visits to podiatrists and chiropractors. "Most of us girls have been here for 20 years, 15 years," said Haase. "This job has really done a number on our feet and they know it." With younger employees who have yet to suffer years of foot-pinching work more willing and able to wear heels, older workers like Haase are rightfully threatened by the casino's footwear policy.
Haase and several other cocktail waitresses began speaking out against Foxwoods' shoe policy in 2009, especially after a consultant came to the casino and described the desired "look" of a Foxwoods cocktail waitress, which included the calf-sculpting, toe-pinching high heeled shoes that have caused Haase and her colleagues immense pain over the years.
But some cocktail waitresses who have suffered issues are reluctant to give up their heels, according to Connecticut podiatrist Dr. Eric Levine. Levine says despite his warnings to waitresses who wear heels to work, "several have told me they're not going to stop wearing them. 'The higher the heel, the larger the tip,'" he said.
So what if Foxwoods lets its cocktail waitresses wear shoes that don't cause permanent foot damage? No one is suggesting that casino-goers be forced to gaze at all-white Sketchers Shape Ups, but God forbid a customer sees a cocktail waitress in reasonable shoes. The horror! She can walk quickly AND isn't easily toppled over! Her center of balance is alarmingly close to the ground! That's enough for most slot-machine enthusiasts to get up and walk right out of the casino.
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