If I told you that waitresses at fine dining establishments such as Hooters often dye their hair, would you be surprised? What if I then told you that while Hooter’s generally allows its waitresses to dye their hair, it does not afford this luxury to its African American waitresses? Can they do that? Apparently, Hooters believes it can, arguing that this plainly race-motivated policy is actually about being glamorous and wholesome.
This is exactly what has happened in the case of Farryn Johnson, a former African American employee of Hooters who recently filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging that she was disciplined, and eventually fired when she dyed her hair blonde, and refused to change it back. When Johnson complained, she was told that blonde hair “isn’t natural on African Americans.”
Hooters is actually arguing that prohibiting an African American employee from dying her hair blonde because “it isn’t natural on African Americans” is not race discrimination. In attempting to explain how this racist policy is somehow not actually racist, Hooters has offered a totally not subjective and ambiguous explanation: “When you’re representing an iconic brand, there are standards to follow. Hooters Girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known.” Thus, in Hooter’s view, African American employees simply need to understand that Hooter’s definitions of glamorous and wholesome (i.e, reinforcing traditional racial appearances) is simply different than theirs, and not at all racist.
On another level, I’m shocked by Hooters’ choice of the word “wholesome.” Really? This reminds me of the movie, The Princess Bride, where Inigo Montoya says, “You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means. The only thing that may be considered wholesome at Hooters is the milk. And, this ridiculous assertion matters in a race discrimination case. Once Hooters stated this wholesome reason as a basis for termination, Johnson need only prove that is not true or pretext to prove her case. As such, Hooters’ “wholesomeness” because the issue for trial, which will be difficult to defend when servers have to wear short shorts and cleavage revealing tank tops. And, I’d be willing to bet that the only thing “fake” at the Hooters in question was not Johnson’s hair color. I’d also be willing to bet they allow body piercing and tattoos, which likely would likely fall lower on the scale of wholesomeness than a dye job for Black servers. Wholesome? Hooters’ website promotes its own calendar of scantily dressed women and some women who are naked, but simple block the angle of their private parts from the camera.
Someone should tell Hooters that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it very clear that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees “because of race.” If distinguishing between which employees may dye their hair, and which may not, on the basis of nothing more than skin color is not unlawful discrimination “because of race,” what is?
This case was just recently filed with the EEOC, and as a result, it may be sometime before Johnson can bring claims under Title VII against Hooters in federal court. However, if Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws are anything like Ohio’s, Johnson will not be required to wait on the EEOC to file claims for racial discrimination based on state law.
What is the lesson to be learned? If you think or even question whether you may be being treated differently based on your race, ask an attorney for an opinion. You have nothing to lose, especially when Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm offers a free initial consultation.
Lawyer Answers: Can my job have different rules for Blacks? What do I do if I’m being discriminated on based on race? How do I stop my boss’ race discrimination?
If you feel that you are being discriminated based on your race, whatever race that may be, then call the right attorney. Race discrimination includes being harassed, fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, and denied wages. When you call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040, you will meet with an attorney from Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm who will help you determine the best way to pursue your legal claims.
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