The dreaded Speedo swimsuit that many men find objectionable is actually causing some major problems for one 61-year old lifeguard in Long Island’s Jones Beach, who is suing the state after being fired for refusing to wear the curve-hugging swimwear.
After some four decades as a lifeguard, Roy Lester was fired from the job in 2007 after he refused to squeeze into the skimpy bathing attire for the annual swim test.
The 61-year-old obviously thought the look undignified for men of a certain age, and preferred wearing a pair of biking shorts. For this, Lester lost his job.
But now, citing age discrimination, Lester has sued the state. He is arguing that the Speedo is intended for men who possess a more athletic physique than it is for aging grandfathers.
The New York Daily News reports:
“I wore a Speedo when I was in my 20s,” Lester said.” But come on. There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo.”
Lester’s swimsuit suit against the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation was dismissed on technical grounds in 2008. So was another suit Lester filed in 2009.
Last week, in a setback to the state attorney general, an appeals court reinstated his claim. Lester’s case could go to trial this year or next in Nassau County.
Lester believes the Speedo edict was an attempt to rid Jones Beach of its aging lifeguards. The former lifeguard union head estimates that more than 80% of Jones Beach lifeguards are older than 40.
“This was not right,” said Lester, a bankruptcy lawyer who is representing himself in the age discrimination claim. “They were just trying to get rid of the older guys. To me the whole key to being a good lifeguard is experience. An older guy sees a save before anyone else. You know the water.”
But this is apparently not the first time Lester has had a run-in with his supervisors before. According to the Daily News, in a union newsletter, Lester accused officials of disciplining Jewish lifeguards more than non-Jewish ones.
Meanwhile, the state’s rule is that lifeguard candidates must wear “boxer, briefs or board shorts” while participating in a 100-yard swim test that must be completed in 75 seconds:
“I could have passed that test in dungarees,” said Lester, an accomplished triathlete who last week finished at the top of his age group in a lifeguarding competition held in Cape May, N.J.
Fellow lifeguards sporting biker shorts to their annual test relented and donned the Speedo, Lester says.
For now, the father of three has settled for working as a lifeguard at the private Atlantic Beach near his Long Beach home. Three days a week, he and others do an hourlong open-water swim off Neptune Beach.
“At a certain point you have to stand up and say this isn’t right,” Lester says. “I sat in a lifeguard chair for 40 years and I loved it. To me, to back down would have made me a hypocrite.
Should Lester have caved in and just donned the skimpy Speedo? After all, those with a far less becoming physique have done so before, and shamelessly.