Baltimore, MD — A black Hooters waitress is accusing the restaurant of racial discrimination after she was fired because of her blonde highlights.
Farryn Johnson told CBS Baltimore that she was fired from her job at the Harborplace Hooters in August after managers told her that her hair color violated employee image standards. The 25-year-old filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights alleging that white waitresses were allowed to have highlights, but black waitresses weren’t.
“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,” she said.
“They gave me write-ups and they told me I need to take the color out of my hair,” she continued. “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.'”
Johnson’s attorney, Jessica Weber, said Hooters violated federal and state laws by having separate rules for employees.
“What’s wrong is that both federal and state law clearly say employers can’t impose two separate and distinct rules governing employee standards–one for African-American employees and one for everyone else,” she said. “And that’s exactly what Hooters did here.”
Hooters of America declined to comment because of the pending litigation. An investigation into Farryn Johnson’s racial discrimination claim could take months.
Last December, KTBS-TV meteorologist Rhonda Lee was fired after responding to a racist Facebook comment. She also responded to a post saying that she should “wear a wig or grow some more hair” — which the station “liked.” Lee said she was sorry the poster didn’t like her ethnic hair and went on to provide a little information about black hair, ending with, “Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.” The station said Lee and another employee were fired for “repeated violation of the station’s written procedure,” but Lee said she was unaware of the policy.
Last month, 7-year-old Tiana Parker was asked to leave Deborah Brown Community School for violating school policy. Parker had her hair in dreadlocks, and was told they were unacceptable and a distraction to other students. She was told she could not return to school until her hair was “presentable.” Her father, Terrance Parker, removed her from the school and said they were unfairly judged.