Roy Lester had been a lifeguard at New York's Jones Beach since 1965. He lost that job when he refused to wear a Speedo to the annual spring swim test. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation changed the rules about what lifeguards could wear to the swim test. The lifeguards historically were able to wear whatever they liked to the test; then the Parks department decided that all lifeguards had to wear a Speedo. Mr. Lester preferred a long short, called a "jammer," because he believed that a Speedo was not appropriate for him. A "jammer" is a longer version of the Speedo. When he refused to wear the required bathing suit, Mr. Lester was not permitted to take the test. He came back a year later to try again. Now Mr. Lester was trying to gain the position as a new hire and again he was not permitted to take the test.
He has since filed suit, alleging that the new dress code was really intended to weed out the older lifeguards. Some internal memos reflect that agency officials worried that older lifeguards would not make it if they had to run across the beach for a rescue. Apparently, more than 80% of the Jones Beach lifeguards are over 40.
The Parks department has claimed that the dress code was a "legitimate, non-discriminatory rationale." It was done to make sure that weak swimmers were not using speed-enhancing swimsuits, according to the brief filed by the state attorney general. The New York state court has allowed the case to proceed to trial, finding that the Parks department had not established that it had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for not allowing Mr. Lester to take the new-hire test.