Most forms of discrimination in the workplace have been illegal for a number of years thanks to both state and federal laws. However, weight discrimination is still legal in 49 states, including Missouri. Weight discrimination cases, while rare, do pop up from time to time. A recent workplace discrimination case from New Jersey upheld an employer’s right to limit an employee’s weight.

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City was sued by 22 cocktail waitresses known as Borgata Babes. The suite claimed that the woman were treated as nothing but sex objects and that they were subjected to frequent weigh-ins. They could even be suspended if they gained more than 7 percent of their initial weight upon being hired. The judge in the case found that the casino’s action did nothing to violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

To reach his decision, the judge cited the fact that the women signed an agreement on the 7 percent weight gain policy before starting work at the casino. An attorney from Michigan says that the ruling could set a precedent for employers across the country. He says that the decision gives employers a huge amount of power over their employees. Another lawyer said that just because an employer’s actions are unfair doesn’t make them illegal.

Many may view this case as dealing with a specific set of people in a profession in which looks are very important. It’s also true that the women did sign an agreement to keep their weight in check. However, rulings such as this one have the potential to spread these types of rules to other professions, spread weight-related workplace discrimination and give employers a great deal of power of the personal lives of their employees. Unfortunately, until laws are created protecting employees from this type of discrimination, employees may have little recourse against these unfair rules.

Source: TIME, “Too Big to Cocktail? Judge Upholds Weight Discrimination in the Workplace“, Josh Sanburn, July 26, 2013