After a group of 22 cocktail servers brought a weight-discrimination lawsuit against their former employer, a superior court judge ruled against them. Michigan is the only state in the U.S. that expressly prohibits workplace discrimination based on height or weight, and the New Jersey judge upheld the legality of treatments that the workers claimed were unfair.
According to the workers, the casino they were employed at subjected them to regular weight checks and placed workers who gained too much weight on probation. They also argued that their employer treated them as sex objects. The superior court judge ruled against them by claiming that they agreed to this kind of treatment when they signed statements agreeing to the weight limit rules and applied for jobs that described them as “babes.” He further ruled that in light of their initial agreement with the workplace rules, they were not coerced or forced into being objectified.
Although federal and state-level rules prohibit a large range of workplace discrimination, weight and height can still be used against workers in a majority of states. Only a few cities outside of Michigan have laws that prohibit such behaviors. Legal experts say that although many current laws and practices are unfair, they are still technically legal.
Although the judge ruled against the workers in this case, its fate might have been different had the lawsuit been filed in Michigan. Workers who are being treated unfairly do not always have legal recourse; however, in Michigan, they might. A Hooters waitress in Michigan sued her employer, saying that the restaurant had illegally discriminated against her when they placed her on 30-day weight gain probation. Her case went to arbitration. A Michigan employment discrimination lawyer may be a good resource for anyone who feels their employer has discriminated against them on the basis of height or weight.
Source: KSWT, “Too Big to Cocktail? Judge Upholds Weight Discrimination in the Workplace”, August 31, 2013