Professor S. Coker
HOOTERS CASE STUDY
Although known for its spicy chicken wings and its mascot, Hooters has, for more than 27 years, been represented by its attractive, beautiful Hooters Girls. Recently, the company has been facing a lawsuit raised by two of its waitresses in Michigan, Cassandra Smith and Leeanne Convery, who got fired following a gain of weight. The two girls are suing the company for discrimination. Many questions arises from such a lawsuit. Indeed, is being fired for being too heavy akin to being fired because of age, religion, sex, color, or national origin ? Is Hooters’ action illegal under state and federal law ? Is bona fide occupational qualification a good defense for Hooters ? Since Leeanne Convery was pregnant and has had problems to maintain her weight, could she possibly have a legal case according to the Americans with Disability Act ?
In the beginning, one will not deny the fact that firing someone for physical reasons is a disparate treatment. From this point of view, Hooters will obviously lose the lawsuit. However, Hooters acknowledges that « the Hooters Girl has become a phenomenon of her own » and that the « Hooters Girls are the very essence of Hooters ». Furthermore, all American knows for a fact that a major part of Hooters’ customers is masculine due to the waitresses’ attractive physical appearance. As a matter of fact, it now looks obvious that physical appearance is an important factor in this company when it comes to hiring waitstaff. Therefore, Hooters’ action of firing these two women may not be illegal under state and federal law.
After being sued for such reasons, Hooters could raise a valid defense stating that it fired the waitresses according to a bona fide occupational qualification, which is an « exception in employment law that permits sex, age, religion, and the like to be used when making employment decisions, but only if they are « reasonably necessary...