New Jersey casino can regulate cocktail waitresses' weight, panel rules

(Amiga-Commodore/Flickr)
(Amiga-Commodore/Flickr)

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A 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 Thursday.

The state appeals court said the Borgata casino's personal appearance standards are lawful. But it also said part of a lawsuit brought by 21 servers should be returned to a lower court to determine if 11 of the women were subjected to a hostile work environment over the standards' enforcement.

The casino says it's pleased that 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 Borgata Babes are an integral part of the casino's brand and marketing. The servers wear tight fitting corsets, high heels and stockings. The casino even produces a Borgata Babes calendar that is one of its top-selling items each year.

An attorney for the servers said that the ruling is disappointing and frustrating.

"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."

She said that servers have been subjected to comments from supervisors asking whether they're pregnant or just getting fat, and co-workers snorting like pigs at them.

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.

Associated Press writer Josh Cornfield contributed to this story from Trenton.

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