New Jersey Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson wrote last week in his ruling that the "Borgata Babe program has a sufficient level of trapping and adornments to render its participants akin to ‘sex objects’ to the Borgata’s patrons."
He said the women who sued "cannot shed the label babe" because they "embraced it when they went to work for Borgata."
This lawsuit is apparently not the first of its kind as in 2006, former Borgata Babes Renee Gaud and Trisha Hart brought a $70 million lawsuit against the casino over the same policy. Their case ended quietly with a confidential settlement two years later. The Press of Atlantic City has a more in-depth write-up of the story and adds further information from Judge Nelson's ruling:
Johnson said nothing bans an employer from asking employees to remain attractive, especially when they were hired in part because of their appearance. Courts have held that employers are allowed to rely upon stereotypical notions of how men and women should appear, but they cannot impose professional disadvantages based on a person’s gender.
Borgata’s practices were applied to both male and female Borgata Babes, although there are substantially fewer men employed in the positions, Johnson said. Between February 2005 and December 2010, there were 646 women and 46 men employed as Borgata Babes. Weight accommodations were made for 48 servers — all female — during that time frame.
Still, Johnson acknowledged that while Borgata’s policies are legal, they can prove problematic.
“From the court’s perspective, the term ‘babe’ is at best undignified and at worst degrading,” Johnson wrote. “Regardless, there are people in our society who view ‘babe’ as playful flattery ... To the chagrin of those in our society hoping to leave sexual stereotypes behind, some of those people are female. And some of those people may be among the plaintiffs.”
The case was part sex discrimination because the plaintiffs argued their male counterparts were treated more favorably but weight discrimination was also alleged even though Michigan is the only state that explicitly prohibits weight (and height) discrimination in statute. Madison, Wisconsin has a local statute that forbids the same and some say there is no momentum to protect it at the federal level or in other states.