ATLANTIC CITY — Cocktail servers at Resorts Casino Hotel will be getting more exposure when they start prancing around in some revealing new costumes. But 16 women who were judged unfit to wear the sexy outfits have been fired.

A union official maintains Resorts is using the Roaring ’20s-themed costumes as a way to weed out middle-aged cocktail servers while the casino pursues a younger customer base.

“I can’t think of anything I’ve dealt with that was more disgusting and dehumanizing than what they’ve done to these women,” said Robert McDevitt, president of Local 54 of UNITE-HERE.

McDevitt, whose union represents cocktail servers, said 16 women ranging in age from their 40s to 60s were fired recently by Resorts after a modeling agency representing the casino decided they didn’t look good in the costumes.

“The company had this ridiculous explanation about how they took pictures of them in the uniform from the neck down and sent them to a modeling agency that had a three-judge panel,” he said. “These were attractive women. They were not slobs. That’s why it’s so damaging.”

The union is preparing to file an age-discrimination complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. By getting rid of the older women, Resorts has been able to lower the average age of its cocktail servers to under 40, McDevitt said.

Dennis Gomes, the new owner and chief executive officer of Resorts, denied McDevitt’s allegations. He declined to discuss the controversy at length, citing the union’s pending complaint.

“The entire process, just like everything we do here, was completed in a fair and balanced way,” Gomes said of the decision to let the cocktail servers go.

Gomes and New York real estate magnate Morris Bailey bought the financially troubled Resorts in December for $31.5 million. Their turnaround strategy includes rebranding Resorts into a Roaring ’20s theme to capitalize on the national publicity of the hit HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” which is inspired by Prohibition-era Atlantic City.

Gomes hopes to attract younger customers to the casino by creating an edgier, sexier atmosphere, including having cocktail servers dress up in costumes that harken back to the 1920s flapper girls. Resorts will debut the outfits Memorial Day weekend, spokeswoman Courtney Birmingham said.

The skimpy costumes are backless and cut high up the thigh. They will be accented by fishnet stockings and high heels. A young woman modeled the get-up in one of the early job ads placed by Resorts.

“Candidates will be required to look good in the uniforms,” the ad said of prospective cocktail servers.

McDevitt said Resorts has kept only 23 of the approximately 70 cocktail servers who were with the casino under its prior ownership. He said the new management team headed by Gomes originally fired cocktail servers from a wide array of age groups, seemingly to avoid any age-discrimination complaints.

McDevitt alleged that the latest round of firings involving the 16 cocktail servers clearly targeted middle-aged women. He also said the firings occurred on the very last day of a 90-day probationary period set up by the new owners.

“None of them were given notices that this was going to happen,” McDevitt said. “The reality is, they waited until the last day of the probationary period to discharge the women.”

Local 54 represents cocktail servers at all of Atlantic City’s 11 casino hotels. This is not the first time the union has fought a casino over appearance standards for cocktail servers. In 2005, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa was slapped with discrimination complaints and Superior Court lawsuits for a policy that prohibited its “Borgata Babes” cocktail servers from gaining more than 7 percent of their body weight.

Despite criticism from labor leaders and women’s groups, Borgata has defended the weight policy as both fair and legal. Discrimination lawsuits filed by former Borgata Babes were settled confidentially, without the policy being overturned.

McDevitt asserted that Resorts’ firings were even more offensive to women than Borgata’s weight standards.

“This is way past what Borgata did,” he said.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:

609-272-7258

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