Nine former Atlantic City cocktail waitresses who claim they were fired because they weren’t sexy enough are suing their former employer, the Resorts Casino Hotel.
The suit alleges that, as part of a rebranding plan, Resorts and its new owner Dennis Gomes, “undertook a plan to change the makeup” of their female staff to make it “younger, slimmer, sexier, and more conforming to a stereotype of feminine beauty.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer says this is the latest development in the war between Resorts and a number of middle-age former cocktail waitresses, several of whom started working there when it opened in 1978. The place was recently purchased and redesigned with a Prohibition-theme, which includes short, black flapper dresses for waitresses. The older women claim they were forced to audition for their jobs by trying on the costumes and posing for photographs, which were judged by a modeling agency.
The waitresses say they have “exceptional” employment histories, attendance records, and job-performance ratings.
They are demanding reinstatement at comparable salaries, back pay and damages for pain and suffering.
I’m sure you have your own opinion on the situation. And the courts will decide whether the plaintiffs were treated fairly. In the meantime, there’s something to be learned from this story: NEVER assume your job is safe. The women used phrases like “could not believe” and “state of shock” to describe their reactions to getting fired. This seems fantastically obtuse, considering that when Gomes bought Resorts it was about to close down, and that a Business Week article says the company had recently cut staff wages by as much as 52%. “Shock”? Really?
Also, even if your company isn’t on the brink of extinction, that doesn’t mean you’re not.
As unfortunate as the situation is and no matter how excellent the plaintiffs are at serving drinks, I suspect the decision to replace them with younger, hotter models was a sound one from a business standpoint. People rarely are let go when they are assets to the company.
You can make your position safer in any industry, and even in typically unstable ones like service. Here’s how.
1. Lose the phrase “That’s not my job.”
- This is one of the most valuable pieces of advice I ever read from some billionaire in Fortune magazine (I forget his name). Everything is your job. You can ignore the coffee cup some jerk dropped on the floor, because it’s the cleaning staff’s job, or you can pick up the damned cup. You can wait for someone to deliver the numbers you need or (often) you can get them yourself. Offer to send emails, clean up, take notes, make the phone call or the Power Point. People often think employers don’t notice their extra efforts – and resent doing more work when others are shirking – but bosses often do. And useful people are preferable to useless ones.
2. Be the only one who can do it. Taking extra responsibility is even better if you’re the only one who has all the information. If you have the opportunity to get your hands on a key, password or file (or whatever), take it. Colleagues come and go. The time might come when you are the only person who knows how to find the client list/work the content management system/open the safe/call off the guard dogs. They’ll have to think twice before canning you.
3. Ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to improve the company situation. Look around you. Is the casino empty? You might be about to lose your job! Maybe you should start looking for a new one. You can also see if there’s a way you can improve business. Does your company need a website? Social media account? Innovative new sales strategy? Funding? New brand profile? Are you equipped to make that happen? Then do it.
4. Don’t gossip. As tempting as it is to talk smack about your co-workers or bosses along with everyone else, don’t do it. Anyone who is gossiping about others’ personal lives or job performances is also very likely gossiping about you as soon as you turn your back and is apt to repeat anything you say should it ever prove potentially useful. You’re more likely to last if everyone likes you than if everyone dislikes you.
5. Suck it up, with a smile. Quit kvetching. Your budget got cut? Deal with it. Co-worker not pulling her weight? That sucks. But complaining about it to everyone just makes you look like a whiner. Your boss snapped at you? Guess what? Crap rolls downhill. She’s as worried about her job as you are about yours. Pick your battles. Even if you’re right, do you want to be right and jobless?
You can’t make yourself 23 again, so there’s just no guarantee they won’t take your flapper costume and give to someone with a tighter butt. You can, however, make it more likely they’ll move you into management instead of out the door.