On the surface, it may appear that the “no fatties” New York City employment lawsuit filed against a local sports bar was about weight.
But New York City discrimination lawyers recognize that it’s actually about sexual discrimination and sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace.
According to various media reports, two women who worked as waitresses and bartenders for a New York City restaurant and bar claim that the company had a policy of “no fatties.” The female employees were reported singled out and forced to step on a scale to be weighed. One of the women who refused was reportedly forcibly picked up by a male staffer and placed on the scale against her will.
Another staffer says that the night manager reportedly groped her breasts and buttocks and made vulgar and inappropriate sexual comments to her and about her weight.
This had gone on from between 2004 to 2006. Then in the summer of 2006, members of the management team reportedly charted the female staffers’ weight and posted it on the internet.
When the women complained, they said, they were fired.
Of course, as New York City employment lawyers recognize, you can’t legally be fired for reporting or complaining about discriminatory behavior – which it certainly appears this was. If their account is true, this is an issue of clear-cut employment retaliation.
The issue is not so much about the issue of weight or size. The women were not reportedly fired for being overweight. While that is certainly illegal, it can be more subjective and difficult to prove. (If you find yourself in a similar situation, an experienced attorney can help you explore all your options.)
However in this case, the women were singled out because they were women. They were subjected to poor treatment and sexual harassment because they were women. And they were fired because they complained about it.
Of course, the company has a very different take on this. According to attorneys for the restaurant and managers, the women were fired for unrelated reasons. They say the women frequently showed up late to work and ate on the job.
Those things may be true, but the timing appears awfully suspicious.
Sexual discrimination is one of those things that is severely under-reported, and sometimes the reasoning for that is employees don’t often recognize it outright.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines that sex discrimination essentially involves a person being treated unfavorably because of his or her sex. The law expressly forbids discrimination in terms of pay, job assignments, hiring, firing, promotions, fringe benefits, layoffs, training or any other condition of employment.
And with regard to sexual harassment, it can include unwelcome sexual advances or asking for sexual favors or physical or verbal harassment. What’s more, the harassment doesn’t even have to be particularly sexual. It can simply mean one person making offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s sex. An example might be making offense comments about women in general.
The law doesn’t cover teasing or isolated incidents or offhand remarks. But there can be a fine line here. It becomes illegal when it gets to a point that the work environment has become hostile or offensive.
The case involving the waitresses appears to meet that criteria. The case will be decided by a jury.