On SAGE Insight: Work‒life laws privilege brothel and community interests, negatively impacting legal prostitutes in Nevada

Article title: Work–life management in legal prostitution: Stigma and lockdown in Nevada’s brothels

From Human Relations 

Work‒life laws and policies are put in place primarily to protect workers. However, for legal prostitutes working in Nevada’s brothels these laws and policies are instead geared towards brothel and community interests, finds this study. Generally speaking, work‒life laws and policies do not apply uniformly across occupations, leaving some legal workers without access to a wide range of strategies for managing boundaries between work and nonwork time. The researchers explain how, “most work‒life laws exist primarily for two reasons: (1) to protect and benefit workers or (2) to protect communities. Work‒life laws for legal prostitutes largely emerged from this latter tradition.”

One of the main work policies that the researchers explored was the lockdown which prevents prostitutes in some locations from leaving brothels in the evening, unless they are on their day off, which they generally have to take out of town. The researchers discovered that lockdown helps brothels to stay “below the sagebrush”, i.e. keep prostitutes hidden.

These prostitutes, through the process of coping with both occupation-based stigma and work‒life laws and regulations, have to deal with a complicated work‒life arrangement, as the researchers concluded: “Individual prostitutes take on the occupational stigma and unfair work‒life laws and regulations while brothel and community interests are privileged.”


Across occupations, people contend with the difficult task of managing time between their work and other aspects of life. Previous research on stigmatized industries has suggested that so-called ‘dirty workers’ experience extreme identity segmentation between these two realms because they tend to cope with their occupational stigma by placing distance between their work and personal lives. Through a qualitative study of Nevada’s legal brothel industry, this article focuses on the prevalence of boundary segmentation as a dominant work–life management practice for dirty workers. Our analysis suggests that work–life boundaries are disciplined by legal mythologies and ambiguities surrounding worker restrictions, occupational ideologies of ‘work now, life later,’ and perceived and experienced effects of community-based stigma. These legal, occupational and community constructs ultimately privilege organizations’ and external communities’ interests, while individual dirty workers carry the weight of stigma.


Read the article for free


Article Information

Work–life management in legal prostitution: Stigma and lockdown in Nevada’s brothels
From Human Relations
Article first published online: December 7, 2016
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726716674262



This entry was posted in Business & Management, SAGE Insight and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply