A New Jersey casino can regulate the weight of its cocktail waitresses, but a court should decide if managers erred in how they enforced those standards, an appeals panel ruled on Thursday.
The state appeals court said the Borgata casino’s personal appearance standards are lawful. But it also said part of the lawsuit bright by 21 servers should be returned to a lower court to determine if 11 of the woman were subjected to a hostile workplace over the standards’ enforcement.
Borgata said it’s pleased the policy was upheld, noting it was disclosed and agreed to by all female and male “costumed beverage servers” when they were hired as “Borgata Babes.”
"We have long held that Borgata's personal appearance policy is fair and reasonable," said Joe Corbo, the casino's vice president and legal counsel. "We are pleased that the three appellate court judges agreed with prior rulings that our policy is lawful and non-discriminatory to women."
The Press of Atlantic City reports that in the judges’ 57-page ruling, 11 plaintiffs who fought the casino’s standard could legally challenge Borgata’s “application of the weight standard resulting in harassment because of their gender.”
The Borgata Babes are an important part of the casino’s brand and marketing. The servers wear tight fitting corsets, high heels and stockings. The casino produces a Borgata Babes calendar that is one of its top-selling items each year. The court noted that the casino made it explicitly clear that anyone called a “Borgata Babe” must take in appearance as a major part of their job, the Press reports.
An attorney for the servers, though, called the ruling frustrating and disappointing.
"Sexual objectification has been institutionalized and is being allowed to stand," said attorney Deborah Mains. "It's difficult to separate the harassment claims that the court is recognizing from the overall theory that the working environment is hostile because of the personal appearance standards."
Mains said the servers have been subjected to comments from supervisors asking whether they’re pregnant or getting fat, and other co-workers snorting at them like pigs.
The ruling overturned part of a 2013 lower court decision throwing out the lawsuit by former and current cocktail servers.
The casino says it has fired two Borgata Babes over the years for violating the policy, which prohibits servers from gaining or losing more than 7 percent of their body weight. One was fired for gaining too much weight; one was let go for losing too much. Neither of those servers was part of the recent lawsuit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.