Hooters and Disability Discrimination

HOO Likes Some Discrimination?

Sandra Lupo had been a waitress at Hooters since 2005.  She’s 27 years old.  Recently, she had to undergo brain surgery to remove a cranial mass.  When she was cleared to return to work last July she met with her manager.  Her manager said she had to wear a wig now during her shifts.  Hooters requires female employees to “acknowledge and affirm” the following:

        1. My job duties require I wear the designated Hooters Girl uniform.
        2. My job duties require that I interact with and entertain the customers.
        3. The Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and the work environment is one in which joking and entertaining conversations are commonplace.
        4. I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements, or work environment to be offensive, intimidating, hostile, or unwelcome.

Ms. Lupo is alleging wrongful termination on the basis of harassment and discrimination, namely disability discrimination.  According to her lawsuit:  The Company required her to wear a wig when she returned from treatment.  The Company refused to pay for a wig so Ms. Lupo had to borrow one.  When Ms. Lupo borrowed a wig it exacerbated her condition.  Rather than get rid of the wig requirement, Hooters responded by cutting her hours to point where Ms. Lupo had to quit.  In its defense, Hooters has argued that offering its customers the look of the “All American Cheerleader, Surfer, Girl Next Door” is the “essence of the business operation” and that essence would be “undermined if the business eliminated its discriminatory policy.”