JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CN) - Jenny Craig will not hire overweight women who are not "brand image," and fired a manager after she hired a man, the manager claims in Hudson County Court. She adds that "only the prettiest and thinnest employees were allowed to work in Manhattan," and others were sent elsewhere.
Pauline Thomas says that when she started working for Jenny Craig in 1997, "weight was not a consideration in the hiring process." But she says, "This practice changed when Jim Evans was hired as CEO. He questioned how overweight people could be allowed to work for a company that promoted weight loss."
Thomas says the word came down: "heavy employees must lose weight or there would be no place for them at Jenny Craig. A 'wellness program' was instituted and center directors were coached to tell their employees to lose weight or lose their positions. However, the language was subtle: 'Be The Brand.'"
Thomas says the company didn't stop there. While she was director of the Secaucus, N.J. outlet, Jenny Craig transferred an employee there from Manhattan, because she was not considered "brand image." Thomas says she learned that "only the prettiest and thinnest employees were allowed to work in Manhattan" branches, and "those who did not fit into this category were transferred elsewhere."
Thomas claims that the transferred employee, Michelle Dawson, created problems for her. Thomas says that when she suggested hiring a well-qualified man to work at the branch, Dawson scoffed, saying she "didn't think he'd be a fit" and later told her that if "you do this, it going to be on your head."
Thomas says she discovered that Dawson was illegally taping conversations between employees by "putting a recorder in [her] personal locker, food room and [the] front desk," which violates New Jersey law.
Thomas says Jenny Craig fired her under the pretext that she had made "negative comments," which were recorded on the tapes, but she was denied access to the recordings.
She says Jenny Craig fired her "as a result of hiring ... a male into a previously all-female organization" and says that "no disciplinary action was taken ... against Dawson for conducting unlawful electronic surveillance."
She seeks punitive damages for age discrimination, invasion of privacy, retaliation and violation of public policy.
Dawson is not named as a defendant.
Thomas is represented by Franklyn Steinberg III of Somerville, N.J.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.