My staff and I at Landau Law Shop have recently heard about an interesting case involving an employee at a Hooters restaurant in Michigan. The restaurant under scrutiny reportedly put the 5’8 135- pound waitress on ‘weight probation’, citing that the waitress needed to look more fit in her size extra- small uniform. The management gave the woman a 30- day gym membership and told her that if she did not lose the weight, her job was on the line.
The 20 year old woman brought a claim using a law exclusive to Michigan. This law is known as the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an individual because of height or weight. The restaurant has released a statement: “Our practice of upholding an image standard based on appearance, attitude and fitness for Hooters girls is both legal and fair. It is not unlike the standard used by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders or the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.” The company plans to argue that the fitness of their employees is a “Bona Fide Occupational Qualification” (BFOQ) reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the business or enterprise, which would render the case exempt from the law. Playboy Magazine has won cases similar to this one using the BFOQ defense. If Hooters can prove that the shapely figure of their employees is a necessity to the business built on enticing male patrons, they have a shot at winning the case.