Casino waitresses are effectively “sex objects” and can be fired for putting on too much weight, according to a ruling last week by an Atlantic County Superior Court judge in New Jersey.
Superior Court Judge Nelson Johnson’s decision ended the legal battle between popular Atlantic City casino the Borgata and a group of 22 former cocktail servers known collectively as “Borgata Babes.”
The 22 Babes filed suit against the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa alleging weight discrimination, according to the Los Angeles Times. The women specifically targeted a casino policy that prohibited “Borgata Babes” from gaining more than 7 percent of their original body weight.
The Press of Atlantic City reports that in court documents, the Babes claimed that the stringent guidelines sometimes forced drastic measures. Waitresses were even told to take laxatives before to mandatory weigh-ins or stop taking prescription medications, according to the site.
In his ruling against the “Babes,” however, Judge Johnson said the Borgata guidelines were fair, and that all women knew what they were getting into when they accepted positions in the casino’s selective program.
“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,” Johnson wrote, according to the Press of Atlantic City. “Nevertheless, for the individual labeled a babe to become a sex object requires that person’s participation.”
TIME notes that the ruling highlights the lack of weight-based discrimination protections in the America — currently, only Michigan prohibits workplace discrimination based on height or weight.
“[The Borgata Babes decision was] a horrible ruling,” Michigan-based disability rights attorney Richard Bernstein told Time. “You have to look at the far-reaching applications of it. You always have to look at a decision with a broad brush. That decision gives employers a tremendous power over people in the workplace.”
Bernstein, who in 2010 represented a Hooters waitress suing on similar, weight-discrimination grounds, added that Johnson may have set an unfortunate precedent for employers.
Joe Lupo, Borgata’s senior vice president of operations, meanwhile told the Press of Atlantic City that casino was pleased with the ruling.
“The court noted that our personal appearance standards are fully and openly disclosed to all team members, and that every plaintiff voluntarily accepted them before starting work,” Lupo said.
This is not the first time the Borgata casino has been hit with a lawsuit regarding their weight-gain policies, however. In 2006, a pair of Babes alleged that their former employer fostered “a sexual and gender-hostile environment and sex discrimination” and asked for $70 million in damages, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. That suit was settled out of court in 2008 for an undisclosed sum.