HR Strange But True!
January 15, 2009

A man says the Hooters restaurant chain unlawfully discriminates against men by refusing to hire them for server positions.

The company makes no secret of its hiring policy: It hires only women for waiter positions at its restaurants. The company calls its waiters “Hooters Girls,” who wear the chain's well-known uniform, which includes orange running shorts and a white tank top. In the Careers section of its website, the company says “ females only need apply for position of Hooters Girl.”

In a lawsuit filed in a federal court in Texas, a man alleges that the company's hiring policy violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on gender and other characteristics.

The man, who is a student at Texas A&M, applied for a job waiting tables at a Hooters restaurant in Corpus Christi. He says he is qualified for the job because he has relevant experience. He alleges that when he went to the restaurant, a manager told him that the company doesn't hire men for the position.

In the lawsuit, the man attempts to address the company's arguments supporting its hiring policy. He says that both men and woman can perform the primary function of the job (serving drinks and food to customers), arguing that the restaurant chain shouldn't be allowed to claim that gender is a bona fide occupational qualification.

The company argues that "being female is reasonably necessary" to the performance of the Hooters Girl's job duties.

Other male applicants have attempted to force the company to hire men, but none have been successful so far. The company shows some pride in fighting to keep its women-only hiring policy for waiter positions.

In the "About Us" section of its website, for example, the company notes its legal battles regarding the hiring policy.

“A group of men in Chicago and a group in Maryland brought forth class action lawsuits challenging the Hooters restaurant chain's right to hire only women in front-of-house positions,” the company says on its website. “On November 25, 1997, federal magistrate Morton Denlow in Chicago approved a settlement of these class actions. Under the parties' agreement, Hooters will continue to be allowed to hire only women for the job of Hooters Girl.”

In 1995, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the company, but the investigation never resulted in an EEOC lawsuit. At the time, the company waged a public relations campaign to keep its policy. The company often cites the Rockettes as another example of when women are the only candidates hired for positions.

The company says: “The element of female sex appeal is prevalent in the restaurants, and the company believes the Hooters Girl is as socially acceptable as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, or a Radio City Rockette.”

The company says men make up about 68 percent of its customers.

What do you think? Do you think the company's policy violates federal law? Should the company be forced to hire men as waiters? Why or why not? Let us know your opinion here. If we get enough good responses, we'll include them in a future HR Strange but True! column.

Sources: Courthouse News Service and Hooters

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