Hooters, infamous for its continuous litigation and moral debates on how women are portrayed in their company, has been handed another judgement against them. This time, a restaurant manager made the company liable for a $250,000 award for making snarky comments about a female employees’—wait for it—highlights.
The employee, who is African American, had blonde highlights in her hair. The manager of the restaurant fired her for having those highlights, informing her that “black people don’t have blonde hair” and that they could not allow her to work with a “skunk streak” on top of her head. Hooters has an image standard policy that requests servers maintain a “girl next door” look. It is applied evenly regardless of race.
Hooters has responded to the award decision, slamming both the employee’s attorneys and the arbitrator who presided over the case. The company, who had an African American senior brand manager respond to the outcome, alleged the arbitrator was biased against the company from the beginning and that plaintiff’s counsel purposefully refused settling early so that attorneys’ fees could be maximized, while the employee received only a fraction of the award. The plaintiff is sent to receive just shy of $12,000 with the attorneys laying claim to the rest. The company furthered commented that Hooters has, in no way, a discriminatory policy against African Americans. In fact, some of their most recent “Miss Hooters International” pageants have crowned African American women.
Companies have isolated incidents that can support a racial discrimination claim. While the entire company does not have any written discriminatory policies, it takes one middle manager of the company to lay the foundations of a discrimination lawsuit. In this case, it was the manager of the restaurant that made an off the cuff comment that got the company in trouble. Additionally, since the award was determined in arbitration, it’s binding—meaning no longer negotiable. An appeal of the judgement may be in the works from the company.
Sources: ABA Journal & Hooters News