A New Jersey casino is in court after 22 employees sued over the personal appearance standards required by their position with the company, including a requirement that only allowed a 7-percent weight gain. The employees alleged that the appearance requirements were discriminatory based on gender and gender roles.
In 2003, Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa created a special position for male and female cocktail servers called the “Borgata Babes.” These male and female servers were subject to special personal appearance standards that required employees to be physically fit, conform to a specific weight-to-height ratio, and have a healthy smile. In 2005, these requirements were updated to clarify the requirement that employees must maintain their appearance from time of hire. The servers in these positions were also given special benefits and access to paid time.
In 2008, 22 servers sued Borgata, alleging that the personal appearance standards were in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, promoted gender stereotyping and resulted in gender bias sexual harassment, and created a hostile work environment.
The Borgata was granted summary judgment based on the fact that during the hiring process it was made clear that these positions were part entertainer and part server, and all the women signed statements agreeing to the weight policy. In addition, the court also found that the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination does not protect individuals from discrimination based on weight.
The lesson here is clear: Read what you sign during the hiring process, make sure you understand it, and ask questions if anything is unclear.
If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.
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