A recent court decision seems to be disputing the fact that bigger is better. A Superior Court judge ruled in favor of a New Jersey casino’s claims that weight restrictions can be legally enforced among its cocktail waitresses. While other forms of workplace discrimination have been protected due to state and federal guidelines, in all states but Michigan, it is permitted to discriminate on the basis of weight.
A group of female employees at an Atlantic City casino complained that their employer viewed them strictly as sex objects and they were subjected to periodic weigh-ins. The waitresses stated that if they gained 7 percent more than their original weight at the time of hire, they faced suspension or fines. The court reminded the employees they knew what they were getting into when they applied for their positions, which were listed as beverage server, hostess and fashion model. Applicants signed contracts agreeing to the weight restrictions.
The judge found that any derogatory titles at the root of the females’ complaints could not be construed as implications they were sex objects, which implied coercion. He stated that they knew how they would be labeled when they signed their employment contracts. The plaintiffs argued the case was part sex-based discrimination, but also weight discrimination. The latter is considered by many to be the last bastion of workplace discrimination that is still acceptable. The judge found nothing in the New Jersey law books that could bar the casino’s actions. Michigan is the only state in the country that specifically forbids discrimination based on height or weight.
The author of that Michigan amendment has been quoted as saying that he was shocked by the number of cases involving the denial of jobs to women in the workplace who were otherwise qualified but not hired on the basis of weight. He claims such a decision would give future employers too much power over their workers. There are only a handful of cities across the United States with regulations in place to protect victims of weight discrimination.
If you or someone you know is a victim of work discrimination, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from a specialist in workplace discrimination because it can be a fine line between the honoring of your rights and the violation of them.
nation.time.com, “Too Big to Cocktail? Judge Upholds Weight Discrimination in the Workplace” Josh Sanburn, Jul. 26, 2013