Hooters, Domestic Violence, and Looking “Glamorous” at Work

Some companies start out on shaky ground, and their basic business model just makes it harder for them defend themselves when trouble comes along.

Case in point: this all-around depressing story from the Des Moines Register, Benefits awarded to beaten Hooters waitress

A waitress was barred from working at the Hooters restaurant in Davenport after a violent physical attack left her bruised and unable to meet company standards for maintaining a “glamorous appearance.”

The waitress alleges she was fired after taking time off to recover from the assault. Hooters officials say the waitress abandoned her job, but also say that the woman’s bruised body made her temporarily ineligible to work as a “Hooters Girl.”

An administrative law judge who presided over a recent public hearing dealing with 27-year-old Sara Dye’s request for unemployment benefits ruled against the company and awarded benefits to Dye. Judge Teresa Hillary found that Dye’s “inability to work due to bruises” did not amount to workplace misconduct.

I’ll limit myself to two observations, here:

1) Hooters must be far from the only employer that insists that employees maintain a “glamorous appearance.” I suspect a serious beating would be just as likely to get you deemed unfit for work on Broadway, or as an actor or actress in just about any setting. And probably in lots of service industry jobs. So it’s not merely because of Hooters’ objectification-of-women business model that they ended up in this situation. Much more palatable businesses could face the same problem.

2) I suspect most people would be more sympathetic to Hooters, in this case, if there were evidence that the company — aside from its assertion that the bruised employee was unfit to work — had gone out of its way to be (or even been minimally) supportive, or had helped its employee get medical help, police help, and/or counselling. Firing the woman looks much worse when it seems to have been the company’s only reaction.

1 comment so far

  1. Corey on

    I wonder about how the judge would have ruled in a case where the person was at fault for his or her appearance. I know of a case where a male waiter got into a fight in his off hours and his employer sent him home because of his appearance. In such a situation, it is my intuition, that most people would side with the employer—the waiter should not have been fighting in his off hours. However from the employer’s point of view, whether the employee is at fault or not, the result is the same, that is, someone whose appearance does not reflect well on the establishment. Does the employer, if it has to pay the worker, unable to work, have a claim against the person who committed the assault? As for point number 2, I agree with you about being at least minimally supportive, especially if this is a one time occurrence. However if you have an employee who returns to his or her abuser, I think sympathy would return to the employer’s position.


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