Seven cocktail servers have filed a lawsuit against the Golden Nugget alleging that the casino would not allow them to work in upscale “party pits” because of their appearance.

The women claim that the party pits — staffed by severs wearing “little more than a see-through negligee” — were opened by the Atlantic City casino in an attempt to sexualize its operations. But the women, five of whom are over the age of 40, say they were denied the chance to work the lucrative shifts.

Instead, new female hires between the ages of 19 and 26 — all of whom have dress sizes of zero to four — were given the slots, they say.

“By requiring a “young and sexy” look, when such has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual performance criteria for the job, the defendants are also illegally discriminating,” the lawsuit states.

Lauren Ware, an attorney for Golden Nugget parent company Landry’s Inc., called the lawsuit without merit and said the servers won the positions through a competitive process bargained for between the casino and Local 54, the casino service workers union. .

“We do not believe that any of the plaintiffs have experienced any economic loss whatsoever,” Ware said. Contrary to their claims, the most lucrative area of the casino is the high-limit table games area. The other table game areas are also competitive from a compensation standpoint with the party pit.”

The lawsuit was filed in Superior Court last month. Court records show the case was moved to federal court last week at the request of Golden Nugget’s attorneys, but the servers’ attorney, Kevin Costello, said the move won’t affect the standard against which the case is judged. The New Jersey law against discrimination still applies, he said. Defendants based outside of the state, such as Texas-based Landry’s, have the option to move the case.

Five servers staff the two Golden Nugget party pits which have live entertainment, bars, gambling tables and a lounge. Three of those servers were previously employed in other areas of the casino. Those servers met bargained criteria and passed a training process, including a written test, Ware said.

This is not the only case in which cocktail servers have sued an Atlantic City casino alleging discriminatory policies. Twenty-three Borgata cocktail servers have a lawsuit pending in Superior Court alleging that a policy prohibiting the servers from gaining more than 7 percent of their body weight after they’re hired is illegal. The women in that consolidated claim, which alleges some women were disciplined for eating a cookie at work, began filing their lawsuits in 2008.

Nearly 40 other servers have a pending lawsuit against Resorts Casino Hotel claiming that they were fired to make room for younger women who would look better in new flapper costumes the casino adopted in keeping with a Roaring ’20s rebranding last year.

Costello, whose law firm is based in Mount Laurel, Burlington County, represents the women in all three cases and said the claims are similar.

“We contend it’s not necessary for a server in a casino to look or act like a young female stereotype. I understand that according to the casino, a young stereotype is more likely to please a male casino goer, but that’s not fair,” Costello said. “It’s not fair any more than it would be fair if other businesses said, ‘Unless you’re young and pretty, you can’t work at the counter.’“

Liza Costandino, a spokeswoman for Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, and Courtney Birmingham, a spokeswoman for Resorts, both declined to comment saying the casinos will not comment on pending litigation.

The Golden Nugget case differs from the other two in that the servers suggest an attempt was made to cover up the “illegal discrimination.” In the suit, the women claim that the casino developed a fraudulent training program as a prerequisite for working in the party pits. They claim the program did not provide any guidance and was a “sham” as the new, thinner hires were never required to undergo the training.

The casino, however, says the 20-hour training program over five days is necessary to more thoroughly train the women in types of alcohol, recipes, pricing and procedures for bottle services.

Costello acknowledged that whichever case is heard first could set precedent for the others. The Borgata case is the furthest along, as its discovery period has ended. That case is assigned to Judge Nelson Johnson.

“I would be surprised if Borgata is not the first to go to trial if, in fact, any of them do,” Costello said.

Two other Borgata cocktail servers sued the casino over the weight policy in 2006. Their case ended with a confidential settlement two years later.

Contact Jennifer Bogdan:

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