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61-Year-Old Long Island Man Sues For Swimsuit Discrimination

A 61-year-old Long Island lifeguard is suing New York, alleging age discrimination because he wasn’t allowed to wear his preferred swimsuit during an annual qualification test, ABC News reports.

While some companies, and even public entities, make specific rules about how people can dress, which employees can and can’t do certain tasks and other mandates, they sometimes don’t consider those rules can violate discrimination laws in New York.
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And, in other cases, officials purposely discriminate against employees and hope they don’t get caught. Or, they believe that the current economic crisis our country is facing will keep employees quiet and that they’ll simply deal with the discrimination in order to keep their job.

According to the news report, the Long Beach man has always worn swim jammers, which are tight shorts that fall just above the knee, when swimming or acting as a life guard. But in 2007, when he arrived to complete a re-hire evaluation at Jones Beach, parks and rec officials wouldn’t let him take the test.

Boxers, briefs or board shorts, the officials told him.

“The older you get, the less skin you should show,” said the man, who has spent several decades as a lifeguard on Jones Beach. “Basically, the state’s been trying to get rid of the older guys. They really don’t like older lifeguards.”

To be a lifeguard, someone must take several timed tests, including swimming 100 yards in 75 seconds or less. He said boxers and board shorts inhibit speed. And speedos, he refuses to wear.

Government officials have denied wrongdoing. A 2007 complaint was dismissed by the New York State Division of Human Rights. In 2008, he tried to take the new lifeguard test, but wasn’t allowed because of his swimsuit. He sued again in 2009 and though the New York State Supreme Court in Nassau dismissed the case, an appeals court reinstated it. The case is expected to go to trial soon.

Discrimination can come in many forms. A person may be denied employment because they are currently out of work. An important team player may not get a promotion because she doesn’t look as good in tight clothing as another co-worker. Someone may face racist comments or jokes based on their skin color, speech or national origin.

Regardless of how a person faces discrimination, it’s wrong. Companies don’t like admitting they are wrong because it can open them up to lawsuits. So, it usually takes the legal assistance of an employment attorney in Great Neck or elsewhere to protect an employee’s rights.

There’s nothing wrong with one employee doing a better job than another and being rewarded. But it should be on-the-job performance, and only that standard, that factors into important personnel matters. Other factors, such as how a person looks, where they’re from or how they talk shouldn’t be part of the discussion.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides discrimination and employment law legal counseling in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

More Blog Entries:

Unemployment Discrimination Prevalent, Newspaper Reports: August 9, 2011
New York City Wins Round in Class-Size Lawsuit: July 28, 2011
Additional Resources:

Boxers, Briefs or Speedos? None of the Above, Says Lifeguard in Lawsuit Over Long Island Swimsuit Rules, by Christina Caron, ABC News