Suit Revived for Veteran Lifeguard, 66, Who Refused to Wear a Speedo
Roy J. Lester is old enough to remember Annette Funicello in fun-in-the-sun-and-sand comedies from 50 years ago like “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.” If later happenings in the 1960s fried your memory, or if you are younger, just remember this: Ms. Funicello kept her navel covered. Such modesty.Mr. Lester got his first lifeguard job in 1965, the year those movies were released. He is still at it, patrolling beaches on weekends. But now, at 66, he is determined to keep his thighs covered.
Such modesty, but it is a critical part of an age-discrimination case. Mr. Lester claims the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation wants to get rid of older lifeguards at Jones Beach State Park on Long Island. And to get them out of the lifeguard chairs, it has banned the thigh-covering swimsuit he likes.
“Don’t get me wrong, when I had a six-pack, I would wear a Speedo, too,” Mr. Lester said, “but the six-pack days are a little beyond.”
Nowadays, he favors a longer swimsuit known as a jammer — think of David Hasselhoff’s uniform in “Baywatch,” only a little stretchier and a little tighter.
But the parks agency did not let him wear one in 2007, for the swimming test that lifeguards at Jones Beach are required to take every spring in order to remain on the staff. Until then, lifeguards who took the test could wear whatever swimwear they wanted.
Nor was he allowed to wear jammers the following year, when he applied to be hired anew, alongside first-time applicants who had to pass an entry exam more demanding than the retest.
So Mr. Lester, a Long Island [bankruptcy lawyer]("http://rlesterlaw.com/our-attorneys/"), filed a lawsuit, accusing the parks agency of age discrimination. Justice Michele M. Woodard, in State Supreme Court in Nassau County, dismissed the case in 2014, saying Mr. Lester had not met all the legal requirements for an age-discrimination case. In May, the Appellate Division reversed that decision and said Mr. Lester’s case could go to trial. A four-judge panel said the parks agency had not established that it had a nondiscriminatory rationale for barring him from the new-hire test.
Mr. Lester said last week that he was not worried about flunking in a different swimsuit. “I could pass that test in jeans.”
I’m with Mr Lester. If he can past the test who cares what he’s wearing?