From handing out coupons to strangers on the street to wearing funky hats while we stand behind the sandwich counter, we’ve all been forced to do some pretty silly things in the workplace. But what happens when silly workplace rules become discriminatory and dangerous?
At the Borgata, a casino and hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, waitresses are facing discrimination, as a judge in a New Jersey state appeals court has ruled that the restaurant’s weight gain policy for servers is, in fact, legal.
This rule states that the servers, known as the “Borgata Babes,” would be punished if they gained “more than 7 percent of their original body weight” while working at the restaurant, Jezebel reported.
In a capitalist structure such as ours, it is obvious that businesses each have their own aesthetic — restaurants have certain vibes and clothing stores aim to attract specific audiences. Of course businesses want to create an image that we associate with their brand. This is the crux of advertising and, in theory, should be a fine practice. Urban Outfitters hires those who give off a hip, trendy vibe, for example, and that’s perfectly okay. But these aesthetics should in no way discriminate against body type, race, gender or sexual orientation, and this is why we need to draw a line.
Interestingly enough, the Borgata most likely believes that enforcing this rule will attract customers, and the management isn’t wrong about that. Arguably, what is so corrupt about this discriminatory rule is that society enforces it — men go to these casinos looking for women whom they can claim as “sexual objects,” and the restaurant is providing them with that. Judge Nelson Johnson, who was responsible for the original ruling against the 22 waitresses who filed the lawsuit, said the waitresses were “akin to ‘sex objects,’” and that their career choice contributed to that distinction, Jezebel reported.
Herein lies the issue: as a society, we have a standard of beauty that correlates with being thin. We believe that thin is beautiful, and the Borgata is perpetuating that belief. We have an unfortunate affinity for this certain type of body and people still buy into it every single day. But what if management were to say that in order to work at this restaurant, the women had to remain as thin as they were when they were hired and they could only be white? Or they could only be black? Or they could only be Latina? This sort of discrimination would never be tolerated as an “aesthetic” value, and the Borgata’s rule walks the same line.
What’s more, this rule almost certainly doesn’t apply to men who also work at the Borgata. In fact, the appeals court ruled that 11 of the women may go back to court claiming sexual harassment for how the rule was enforced, because it allegedly wasn’t applied to the men who worked there. And let’s just be clear that while we don’t know for sure, most of these women probably didn’t take their positions as servers to be considered “sex objects” — waitressing is a well-paying gig, and serving at a casino doesn’t seem too shabby. But the term “server” doesn’t parallel “sex worker.”
A rule like this surely fosters eating disorders and body image issues, especially for those who are already insecure about their weight. Rather than caring about its workers’ mental and physical health, Borgata’s management seems to be more consumed with the fact that they could potentially lose customers if their servers aren’t held to this particular standard. Women may become so desperate to keep their jobs that they force themselves into sickness in order to preserve their current image. In actuality, while the company aims for success, this rule is malicious, shallow and purports an extremely negative public image.
But this isn’t only a stigma within restaurants. In 2014, popular clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch faced scrutiny because it’s CEO, Michael Jeffries, refused to make “large sized” clothing. The company was even accused of keeping its “larger” employees housed in the back of the store to stock clothing, while those who fit its beauty standards worked in the front and earned the title of “Model.” But not six months after Jeffries stepped down, Abercrombie announced the company would no longer hire based on “body type or physical attractiveness,” nor would it use “sexualized marketing,” The Washington Post reported in April.
This is an immensely positive change for the Abercrombie & Fitch brand, and it goes to show that even a company that is determined to hire its front-of-store employees based on the CEO’s standards of physical attractiveness can change for the better.
A business’ job is to keep their customers satisfied, but this goal can’t be accomplished if management simply doesn’t take the well-being of their devoted employees into consideration. Happy workers are vital to success. There has to be a way to create equality among all genders and races in the workplace, and this ruling is a huge step in the wrong direction.