Not Just as Haven for Heart Attacks: Challenging the Sexist Workplace

By Rachel Hershkovitz

It’s not run-down, it’s in a central location, and I’m sure the salary is decent, but I’d probably do anything to avoid working there. It’s a Friday night, and I’m at the Heart Attack Grill, a controversial restaurant that entered the Las Vegas landscape in 2011. Located on Fremont Street, Heart Attack Grill proudly serves artery-clogging foods prepared in pure lard and butter. Anyone who weighs more than 350 pounds eats for free and receives celebratory cheers from plump clientele.

The Heart Attack’s Grill’s overt encouragement of gluttony and excess is easy to spot and, consequently, is why the restaurant invites so much attention and controversy. While critics have a point that the Heart Attack Grill promotes unhealthy, reckless eating habits, they should also take notice of something that’s just as prevalent but rarely addressed: sexism.

One doesn’t have to search to find it. Right above the bar, for example, is a giant screen displaying video clips of Heart Attack Grill-related media. In one clip, a waitress, donned in a highly sexualized nurse’s costume that female employees must wear, sits on the lap on a large man in a wheelchair and splays her legs out at three and nine o’clock. Meanwhile at the table, the menus read “get her to try new positions” and feature pictures of females saying “I like it in the can.” It’s alarming that Heart Attack Grill hasn’t been lambasted for such a crude portrayal of women.

The Heart Attack Grill’s lack of gender parity in its workplace is not an anomaly; it’s demonstrative of a larger, ongoing problem in Las Vegas concerning discriminatory working environments. Portraying women as objects and using their bodies to make a profit is nothing new to Las Vegas, but that doesn’t excuse the city from failing to adhere to the same standards as most of the country.

But for whatever reason, Las Vegas isn’t noticing (or worse, caring) that sexism exists in the workplace. When sexism goes unrecognized or unchallenged, like at Heart Attack Grill, women must grapple with unfortunate, tangible repercussions. It places an unfair burden on female workers when they are subject to unrealistic expectations that do not apply to their male counterparts. Living in a service economy where women and men work alongside each other, there’s no reason to cling to archaic attitudes that discourage women from working. For this reason, it’s fair to conclude that sexism anywhere–in this case, the Heart Attack Grill–is a threat to women across the Las Vegas valley–and the country.

Perhaps Las Vegas should revamp its image and openly admonish sexist workplaces. Las Vegas would remain a paradise for tourists but without the discrimination against its female employees.  It’d certainly be better for those who wish to work in fair, progressive environments, but more importantly, altering the Las Vegas brand would elevate the city. Since many hotels, casinos, and restaurants embody a more progressive Vegas, it’s time that the remainder of Las Vegas heeds their example and identifies workplace discrimination—blatant or latent—and fights it. Until then, thanks, but I’ll pass on the Triple Bypass Burger and have some water instead.

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