When the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation required Jones Beach State Park lifeguard Roy Lester to wear a skimpy bathing suit for his annual swim test in 2007, Lester - then in his late 50s - refused. So the state fired him.
Since that time, Lester, now 61 and a four-decade guarding vet, has sued the department - twice - claiming age discrimination and arguing, as the New York Daily News puts it, that Speedos are "for the washboard stomach set, not aging dads like him." Both previous lawsuits were dismissed on technical grounds in 2008 and 2009, but now an appeals court has reinstated Lester's claim. His case could go to trial later this year or next year in Nassau County, the Daily News reports.
Lester told reporter Thomas Zambito that the Speedo edict was an attempt to rid Jones Beach of its aging lifeguards; it has been estimated that more than 80 percent of lifeguards at Jones Beach - a popular Long Island destination and one of eight state beaches in New York - are older than 40. "This was not right," said Lester, a bankruptcy lawyer who is representing himself in the age discrimination claim and who has previously accused state officials of disciplining Jewish lifeguards more often than non-Jews. "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. [He knows] the water."
Male lifeguards must wear "boxer[s], briefs or board shorts" during a 100-yard swim they must finish in 75 seconds, according to state standards. Lester preferred to wear a more modest pair of biking shorts for his test in 2007, but was not given the option.
"I wore a Speedo when I was in my 20s," Lester, who now guards at a private beach, told the Daily News. "Come on. There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo."
State officials have not commented on Lester's suit.