Farryn Johnson, a former Hooters employee, sued the restaurant chain claiming the company would not allow her to work as a Hooters Girl on account of a blonde highlights in her hair. Johnson, and African-American woman, was allegedly told by a Hooters manager that “black people don’t have blonde hair.” Johnson’s case went to arbitration, were she won more than $250,000 in an arbitration award.
Johnson was fired in 2013 allegedly because her supervisor said she violated the chain’s “image policy.” According to Johnson’s lawsuit, Hooters’ actions were discriminatory because they did not allow African-American women to wear colors in their hair that are not natural for their ethnicity. The arbitration report states that other waitresses of other races were not disciplined for having hair colors that were not natural.
In a release following the arbitration award, a spokesman for Hooters wrote that Hooters Girl Brand Image Standards are the same for all employees, regardless of race or ethnicity. Hooters applies these standards equally to each and every one of its 300,000 present and former employees.
The arbitrator, however, found that the hair-color policy “was implemented in a discriminatory manner adversely affecting African-American women.” He also found that those in charge of the Hooters restaurant in Baltimore where Johnson worked had violated federal and state civil rights laws.
Hooters is considering appealing the arbitration award, partially because the company did not consider the arbitration process to be fair. While Johnson’s attorneys were allowed to introduce various kinds of evidence, the arbitrator allegedly refused to allow Hooters to present evidence through testimony that could have established beyond doubt that Johnson’s claims were groundless.
Though the $250,000 arbitration award may seem generous, most if it will likely be used to cover Johnson’s legal expenses.
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