Ex-Borgata Waitresses Sue Casino for $70MJOHN CURRAN , Associated Press
Jan. 31, 2006 6:35 PM ET
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Two former Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa cocktail servers have filed a $70 million sex discrimination lawsuit against the casino, saying it humiliated costumed ``Borgata Babes'' by imposing weight limits, encouraging breast augmentation surgery and emphasizing looks over job performance.
The suit, filed Monday, calls the casino a workplace ``polluted by rampant sexual stereotypes'' and seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, back pay and damages for humiliation suffered by Renee Gaud, 36, of Mays Landing, and Trisha Hart, 28, of Wenonah.
Gaud, who suffers from a thyroid condition she said makes her weight fluctuate, gained weight but was refused a larger costume and took a leave of absence because of stress over an impending, casino-mandated weigh-in.
Hart was fired after complaining about the weight policy and being forced to undergo a drug test as part of a leave of absence. She was later diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, the lawsuit states.
Borgata spokesman Michael Facenda said the casino would have no comment because the litigation was pending.
The women filed complaints last year with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, saying the weight-limit policy _ which threatened suspensions if female cocktail servers gained more than 7 percent of their body weight _ forced them off the job and led to Hart's firing.
They are now suing the casino, owners Boyd Gaming Corp. and MGM Mirage, Boyd Chairman William S. Boyd, Borgata CEO Robert Boughner and Victor Tiffany, vice president of food and beverage at the casino. They opted for the lawsuit instead of the civil rights complaint because the courts offered a speedier resolution and the potential for monetary damages, rather than possibly ordering their reinstatement and fines for the casino, according to Jill Owens, one of the women's lawyers.
``Borgata Babes'' is the moniker given to its cocktail waitresses by the casino, which opened in July 2003 and leaned heavily on sex in its marketing and brand advertising. They wear cleavage-baring bustiers, high heels and tight-fitting bolero-style jackets, and are required to maintain ``clean'' smiles, hourglass figures and weight proportionate to their height.
A personal appearance policy imposed last year on costumed waitresses and bartenders requires the men to keep V-shaped torsos, broad shoulders and slim waists. Women cocktail servers who gain too much weight are subject to unpaid suspension and given three months to drop the pounds, aided by a company-sponsored weight-loss program.
Casino officials have said they stand by their policy and that the appeal of their casino derives in part by having slim, sexy women who reinforce the casino's brand serving drinks. It is the only Atlantic City casino with such a policy.
According to the lawsuit:
_several Borgata Babes were given ``generous leave, without penalty'' to undergo breast augmentation after being encouraged by male supervisors and told that servers working for Las Vegas casinos owned by Boyd Gaming had undergone the procedure.
_any request for a larger size skirt or jacket triggered notification of management and a weigh-in for the woman requesting it.
_Gaud and Hart were among many cocktail waitresses who endured ``bullying and degrading harassment about their weight and appearance on a daily basis.''
``From the top brass of senior management down to lower-level supervisors, the Borgata's workplace is polluted by rampant sexual stereotypes, a sexual and gender-hostile environment and sex discrimination,'' according to the lawsuit. ``Borgata has actually promulgated employment practices by which women are sexually objectified and their workplace performance is secondary to the size of the breasts and waistlines.''
Neither Gaud nor Hart could be reached for comment. A man who answered the telephone at Gaud's home referred inquiries to her lawyers; Hart's telephone number is not listed.
No cocktail servers have been fired for weight gains, according to Robert McDevitt, president of Local 54 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees union, which represents cocktail servers.
The union has filed a grievance over the weight limit policy because it was imposed unilaterally and not discussed as part of the casino's contract with Local 54, McDevitt said. The complaint will likely go to arbitration this summer, he said.