Nine cocktail waitresses have banded together to sue Atlantic City’s Resorts Casino Hotel for age discrimination and gender discrimination. According to the Daily Mail (a UK paper), “Atlantic City waitresses claim they were made to strip in front of their co-workers and told to squeeze into flapper outfits that were too small for them. Their photographs were then sent to a modeling agency that decided who should stay and who should be axed.”
The hotel, for its part, maintains that it evaluated each waitress fairly and maintained that the flapper costumes were a key part of its rebranding to capitalize on the revival of the “Roaring 20s” style spurred by the popular HBO TV series, Boardwalk Empire. Terry Bruno, a former waitress at Resorts, said “we had to go up into this poorly lit, dingy room with uniforms strewn all the floor and we had to try and find something to fit us.” Another waitress, 53-year-old Katharyn Felicia, insisted that the resort’s rebranding was “very degrading to women… we had no idea that the photo shoot was fighting for our jobs.” She also told the Daily Mail: “I was forced to get undressed in front of six co-workers, one of them being my manager… I had no top on because you can’t wear a bra with the uniform. I had stockings on, but that’s it. It was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever had to do.”
The gender discrimination allegations touched off a rowdy and at times unpleasant debate on the blogosphere about the rights and responsibilities of cocktail waitresses. Critics of the lawsuit argue that the job of “cocktail waitress” is by nature intended for younger women. The resort deserves the chance to make money; if the law required the hotel to employ septuagenarian and octogenarian (to go to the extreme) cocktail waitresses, then the business would lose money. Not so fast, say advocates of workers. Sure, businesses like casinos should be entitled to screen employees legally and pick the best people suited for the job. But the screening process cannot be arbitrary. It cannot violate age discrimination and gender discrimination laws.
Gloria Allred, an attorney representing the women, put it this way: “Mr. Gomez [the resort boss] may have sought to recreate the 1920s with the flapper uniforms and G-men. But we are here to remind him that, although there were no laws prohibiting employers from discriminating against women on account of their sex and age at that time, there are laws that prohibit such discriminatory conduct now.”
The lawsuit fascinates the public because it touches on multiple “hot button” issues, including:
• The rights of the women in the workforce;
• The fears and anxieties of baby boomers as they age out of certain jobs and face uncertain retirement circumstances;
• The fears of many Americans languishing in the stagnant economy;
• The new obsession many Americans have with the 1920s, thanks to Boardwalk Empire;
• Americans’ ongoing fascination with the somewhat seedy world of casinos and cocktail bars.
If you or someone you care about has been retaliated against or has experienced unfair treatment at work, wage and hour violations, or discrimination of any kind, the team at Joseph & Kirschenbaum can help you understand and protect your rights and get abusive behavior to stop. Learn more about your rights at www.jhllp.com, or call us at (212) 688-5640.