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Judge Rules That Waitresses Can be Fired for Weight Gain

discrimination lawAccording to a controversial ruling by a Superior Court judge in New Jersey, casino waitresses are essentially “sex objects” (a direct quote), who can be terminated for gaining weight.

The decision by Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson put the nail in the coffin of a workplace discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit brought by 20 former cocktail waitresses against the powerful Atlantic City casino the Borgata.

These women, known disparagingly as the “Borgata Babes,” brought their suit against the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa for weight discrimination. The women were specifically contesting a workplace policy at the casino banning “Borgata Babes” from gaining anything over 7% of the body weight recorded on their date of their hire.

Court documents show that the restrictive policy forced some waitresses to take extreme measures, including taking laxatives before their mandatory weigh-ins, or holding off on prescription medications that might cause bloating or weight gain.

In Johnson’s ruling against plaintiffs, the Judge argued that Borgata’s guidelines were both legal and fair, and that women should know what kind of position they’re accepting when they apply for a position with the exclusive casino.

In his decision, Johnson wrote the following: “The Borgata Babe program has a sufficient level of trapping and adornments to render its participants akin to ‘sex objects’ to the Borgata’s patrons. Nevertheless, for the individual labeled a babe to become a sex object requires that person’s participation.”

Employment Attorneys Weigh In on the Debate

Time magazine has reported on the way this ruling underscores the near-absence of protection against weight-based discrimination in the U.S.  In fact, Michigan is currently the only state to prohibit workplace discrimination based on height or weight.

Disability rights attorney Richard Bernstein called the Borgata Babes decision “a horrible ruling. You have to look at the far-reaching applications of it. You always have to look at a decision with a broad brush. That decision gives employers a tremendous power over people in the workplace.”  Bernstein is no stranger to the controversy. Back in 2010, he represented a former Hooters waitress who brought a lawsuit for similar weight-discrimination.

Meanwhile, Borgata’s senior vice president, Joseph Lupo, cheered the decision, stating that “The court noted that our personal appearance standards are fully and openly disclosed to all team members, and that every plaintiff voluntarily accepted them before starting work.”

The recent case is not the first time the casino has faced lawsuit related to its weight-gain policies. Back in 2006, two of its employees charged the Borgata with fostering “a sexual and gender-hostile environment and sex discrimination” a discrimination lawsuit that sought $70 million in damages. The case was settled out of court before it ever went to a jury, and therefore the final settlement amount remains undisclosed.

If you have faced workplace discrimination, contact an employment attorney today for help with your case .

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Emery Reddy