Maryland Hooters Waitress Claims Race Discrimination Over Hair Color

While many would think a Hooters waitress would have a charge for sexual assault pending, a former waitress of the chain has a legal matter of a different kind: a civil rights action. Farryn Johnson, 25, alleges she was fired from her job as a waitress at the Hooters restaurant after she was told by managers that her hair color violated the employee image standards.

“My other co-workers, they all had different colors in their hair, like red and blonde highlights. I didn’t think it would be an issue,” Ms. Johnson said in a statement. “But they gave me write-ups and they told me I need to take the color out of my hair. And they said I couldn’t have blonde in my hair because I’m black. They specifically said, ‘Black women don’t have blonde in their hair, so you need to take it out.’”

State and federal laws are very clear on the definition of race discrimination and both clearly state that employers cannot impose two separate and distinct rules governing employee standards–one for African-American employees and one for everyone else. And that’s exactly what Ms. Johnson’s lawyer, Jessica Weber, is arguing Hooters was doing. Ms. Weber describes how Hooters would allow Asian employees to have red hair, while also allowing Caucasian employees with black hair to add blonde streaks.

Hooters, at first, denied a comment, citing pending litigation, but later released a statement through Rebecca Sinclair, chief of the chain’s human resources national office. “When you’re representing an iconic brand there are standards to follow. Hooters girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known. Hooters adamantly denies that it has different policies and standards for hair based on race. As a global brand, Hooters embraces our culturally diverse employee base and our standards are applied impartially.”

It is unknown where the outcome of this case will lean but for now it is in the hands of the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, whose investigation could take months.

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