A trial court judge recently held that Borgata Casino’s “Borgata Babes” program—its employment of scantily-clad, attractive casino servers who were required to watch their weight—did not run afoul of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). In Schiavo, et al. v. Marina District Development Company, LLC, No. ATL-L-2833-08, 2013 WL 4105183 (Law Div. July 18, 2013), 22 female plaintiffs claimed that they were subject to gender discrimination because they were forced to work in an atmosphere of sexual objectification, and could be discharged if they gained more than 7 percent of their weight at the time of hire. In granting summary judgment, the trial court relied on a rarely interpreted section of the NJLAD, which permits employers to establish reasonable workplace appearance, grooming, and dress standards. The court held that the plaintiffs were aware of and voluntarily accepted the terms of their employment at the time of their hiring (including the weight requirement, which had an exemption for disability-related weight gain), the program was reasonable in terms of the industry’s mores and practices, and there was no evidence that the weight and appearance requirements were disparately enforced based on gender.
Any employer that implemented reductions in force or layoffs after 2008 should consider filing refund claims for the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) taxes paid on severance benefits based on a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. In United States v. Quality Stores, Inc., No. 10-1563 (September 7, 2012), the Sixth Circuit held that severance payments paid to employees pursuant to an involuntary reduction in force were not “wages” for FICA tax purposes.
On October 17, 2018, Canada’s federal Cannabis Act went into effect, legalizing the use and possession of a limited amount of marijuana for adults over the age of 18. The new law makes good on a campaign promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and makes Canada the second country to legalize marijuana use on a national basis. It is intended to make Canada’s marijuana industry safer by keeping the drug out of the hands of kids and steering profits away from criminals. This newfound freedom (and tax revenue), however, may come at a cost to those trying to cross the border into the United States, where marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
The United States has reached a new trade deal with Canada and Mexico, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The new deal is largely focused on cross-border trade and tariffs, and adopts NAFTA’s immigration provisions with minimal changes.