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In a complaint filed this week, Cassandra Marie Smith of Roseville, Michigan, alleges that she was “constructively discharged” because she failed to meet the “discriminatory and illegal requirements” demanded of a “Hooters Girl.”
Under a different set of facts, this case might make a bit of sense. Suppose Ms. Smith drank a few too many cold ones during her term of employment, which rendered her too voluptuous for even the largest pair of orange short-shorts. That would put Hooters in a pretty predicament, would it not? Yet, according to the complaint, nothing like that happened here.
Ms. Smith, who stands 5’8” tall, weighed 145 lbs. when she took the job and 132 lbs. when she quit. You read that correctly — she lost weight over her two years of employment. True, her uniform did not fit properly — but only because it was too baggy. The issue, apparently, was not that Ms. Smith could no longer squeeze into her “Small” size uniform, but that she could not fit into the “Extra Small” size uniform (to say nothing of the “Extra Extra Small” size uniform). To remedy this embarrassment, the management placed Ms. Smith on “weight probation” and advised her to join a gym.
Hooters ought to be the one sweating. A Michigan statute affirms that the “opportunity to obtain employment … without discrimination because of … weight … is recognized and declared to be a civil right.” Specifically, employers may not “classify an employee … in a way that … adversely affects the status of an employee because of … weight.” The coverage of this law is a bit skimpy though. Hooters would qualify for an exemption if it shows that “weight … is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business.”
Since virtually every other restaurant chain in the United States somehow manages to attract customers without waitresses wearing revealing tank tops, Hooters may struggle to articulate why fitting into an “Extra Small” uniform is “reasonably necessary” to serve bar food. To defend itself, might Hooters actually admit the true source of its brand appeal in open court? Perhaps. Then again, everybody knows what draws loyal patrons to Hooters — the wings, of course.
– Nathan McGregor
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