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Scales of justice unkind to ‘Borgata Babes’

 (Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

(Cartoon by Rob Tornoe)

Break out the scales, because over at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, managers can go back to controlling how much weight their Borgata Babes cocktail servers gain.

Wait, did I say cocktail servers… I meant “entertainers.”

A superior court judge has ruled that Borgata is within its rights to require its cleavage-bearing servers known as “Borgata Babes” not to gain more than seven percent of their body weight after they are hired, which the casino equated to jumping up one clothing size.

The lawsuit was brought by 22 cocktail servers who said the rules created a culture of humiliation and harassment at the casino, and claimed managers told worried employees to take laxatives before weighing in or to stop taking prescription medications that cause weight gain.

Unfortunately, all the women involved in the case signed statements agreeing to the weight policy, and by enduring a lengthy hiring process that made it clear the positions were “part fashion model, part beverage server, part charming host and hostess,” the judge ruled that the women should have known what they were getting into.

Borgata was pretty clear about the role of the servers in the brochures they gave to applicants:

“She moves toward you like a movie star, her smile melting the ice in your bourbon and water. You forget your own name. She kindly remembers it for you. You become the most important person in the room. And relax in the knowledge that there are no calories in eye candy.”

Obviously, certain businesses have sufficient appearance requirements that separate them from a normal, run-of-the-mill job. For instance, a film being made about a black family can discriminate against white actors out of necessity, and a strip club can refuse to hire overweight or unattractive women based solely on appearance.

According to the judge, the “Borgata Babes” fall under this classification because the 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 … Plaintiffs cannot shed the label babe; they embraced it when they went to work for the Borgata.”

Despite the judge’s ruling, I think the case brings up some interesting questions about the level of allowable discrimination given to certain job classes.

Desperate people will do anything to survive, and in a terrible economy, many people have turned to jobs they wouldn’t ordinarily consider to pay the bills. Hypothetically, does that give license to employers to twist and contort labor rules in their own interest, as long as they simply let applicants know up front?

What if The Gap wanted to sell more shirts, and decided the best way to attract new customers would be to get rid of ugly or overweight employees and hire fresh faces to replace them? Could they simply change the job title from “cashier” to “retail entertainer” in order to justify strict appearance limits on their employees?

The most interesting part of the case was that the judge said an employer is free to ask employees to remain attractive, as long as they aren’t imposing different standards based on gender.

Yes, this means there are male “Borgata Babes” roaming the floor of the casino, although they are outnumbered 10-1 by their female co-workers. I don’t know the attire the male servers are required to wear, but as a potential customer, I certainly don’t want slovenly, unshaven slob serving me drinks that are more expensive than my mortgage.

So maybe I’m just over thinking this whole thing, and there’s nothing wrong with the Borgata requiring fit and trim servers, even if they have to call them “entertainers.” After all, as my wife assured me, there’s never been an obese Chippendale’s model.

Unless you count Chris Farley

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Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and a WHYY contributor. See more of his work at RobTornoe.com, and follow him on twitter @RobTornoe.

 

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