Women sue non-union Standard Hotel for discrimination

NYHTC — March 22, 2011

According to reports from the New York Daily News and the New York Post, two female former cocktail servers have sued the non-union Standard Hotel for gender discrimination. The suit alleges that the two women, both of whom are about 5-foot-4, did not meet the Standard's new standard for cocktail waitresses, i.e., "women who appear to be willowy, svelte and statuesque runway models "

The fired cocktail servers sued the hotel due to the gender specific nature of this new policy. According to their lawyer, male employees of the Boom Boom Room are not being judged based on their resemblance to runway models. "It's not a question of looks, they want statuesque runway models and they're treating women differently than they're treating men."

Both servers had been employed in the Boom Boom Room, the hotel's nightclub, and, according to their court filing, had been "stellar employees" and had received "positive feedback." Shortly after the club was renovated and reopened, both received evaluations faulting their performance as "not up to par" or "less than par," and were fired.

There is no way to tell what the outcome of the above lawsuit will be, but it is likely to take years, dragging through an incredibly inefficient court system. Without a strong union contract, employees have little effective protection against humiliating treatment from their employers, like these women apparently received at the hands of the Standard Hotel.

It is especially interesting to note that they had already been working for the hotel and were apparently considered "willowy and svelte" enough when they were hired. One day, management seems to have decided to implement a new policy requiring employees to magically acquire the physical traits of runway models, and suddenly, they found themselves unemployed. Also, if the hotel had imposed the same unjust policy on male employees, there would be no legal basis to sue in court. That is because the law permits employers to subject employees to outrageous and demeaning treatment, provided the abuse is dispensed in a non-discriminatory manner.

If the Standard were a union hotel, the two women would still have their jobs and management would not have dared to impose such a policy. Our union's Industry-Wide Agreement prohibits employers not only from discriminating, but also from implementing unfair or unreasonable rules or policies, or disciplining employees without just cause, and it provides a fast and effective grievance procedure that permits unionized workers to obtain real justice.

This case illustrates the direction in which the hotel industry is likely to move in New York City if union density is not maintained or increased.

Martinez, Jose. Boom Boom Room cocktail waitresses claim Standard canned them for lacking 'runway model' looks. New York Daily News. January 25, 2011.

Gregorian, Dareh. 'Boom & broom lawsuit: 'Too short' gals sue. New York Post. January 26, 2011.