Hooters restaurant sued for racial discrimination against employees

A Hooters restaurant in North Carolina has been sued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for alleged racial discrimination against its employees.

On 24 August, the federal agency announced the lawsuit filing against the Greensboro franchise location due to the supposed temporary termination of Black and darker-skinned staff members, otherwise referred to as “Hooters girls”. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the establishment allegedly laid off around 43 employees for a period of time.

According to CNN, the EEOC said in a lawsuit that the restaurant “laid off a class of Black and dark-skinned women and recalled mostly white or light-skinned employees by May 2020.” The EEOC’s release states that a total of 13 employees were recalled to the establishment and out of those, 12 of them were “white and/or had light skin tones, reflecting a marked shift in the racial composition of the restaurant’s Hooters Girls workforce.”

In addition, the EEOC reported a 43 per cent decrease in dark-skinned and/or Black employees from the period before layoffs until after rehiring. The complaint also pointed to alleged “racial hostility and observed preferential treatment of White employees” by dark skin toned and/or Black employees while they were employed at the location.”

The EEOC filed the lawsuit in the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina as the alleged actions directly violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is meant to protect employees from workplace discrimination and harassment.

Regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte district, Melinda C Dugas, was quoted in the EEOC’s release. “When recalling employees from a layoff, it is critical that employers examine their selection criteria to ensure they are objectively verifiable and free from racial bias,” she said. “Federal law protects employees from race-based decision making in the terms of employment, including in layoff, recall and hiring decisions.”

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits employment decisions based on colour, including discrimination based on the lightness or darkness of a person’s skin shade or tone,” Charlotte district director, Betsy Radar, added.

The EEOC is seeking monetary relief in the form of back pay and “compensatory and punitive damages” for the employees, as well as “injunctive relief” against the Hooters franchise.

The Independent has reached out to Hooters and the EEOC for comment.