$250,000 Hooters Server Racial Discrimination Case: Fired Woman Wins Lawsuit

A $250,000 lawsuit win for a Hooters server is making headlines this week. According to NBC News, a waitress was fired in 2013 from a Hooters location in Baltimore. Farryn Johnson was not fired for poor performance on the job, but for the highlights in her hair.

Johnson is African-American, but in 2013, she had blonde highlights in her hair. The manager of the Hooters she worked at complained on several occasions about the hair color, and Johnson was written up for the choice of highlights in her hair.

Initially, Johnson saw her hours of work cut. However, she was eventually fired by the establishment. She had been working on the restaurant for about a year without incident when the issues over her blonde highlights began. After Johnson was fired by the manager, she filed a lawsuit, and she has now won that lawsuit.

According to court documents, African-American employees are not allowed by Hooter’s policy to have blonde highlights in their hair. The Hooters image policy dictates that Hooters girls should have “wear the right hair color for their skin tone.” Johnson shared about how the problems for her started in an interview with a local Baltimore station.

“The manager at the time literally said, ‘You can’t have blond because black people don’t have blond hair.’ I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.”

Hooters has released their own statement denying that it is their policy. The statement was released to their site on April 2.

“Ms. Johnson’s claims of discrimination are simply without merit and Hooters received an adverse and flawed decision from the Arbitrator presiding over the case. Ms. Johnson’s counsel informed the Arbitrator that Hooters had objected to him serving on the case. From the beginning of his affiliation with this matter, the Arbitrator demonstrated an unfortunate bias and a complete disinterest in hearing Hooters’ version of the facts. Despite allowing Ms. Johnson’s attorneys to introduce various kinds of evidence, the Arbitrator refused to allow Hooters to present the truth through testimony, which would have established beyond doubt the groundlessness of Ms. Johnson’s claims.

It is difficult to understand why someone acting as an Arbitrator in a dispute would not want to hear and consider all of the key evidence before making a decision. Contrary to exaggerated reports, Ms. Johnson did not receive $250,000 in back pay, but rather only $11,886.40, while her attorneys on the other hand received approximately $244,000 in attorneys’ fees. Given the Arbitrator’s clear bias, Hooters originally made an offer to settle earlier in the case that would have given Ms. Johnson almost four times as much as she was eventually awarded. It is Hooters’ opinion that her attorneys came out ahead when the case could not be settled, not Ms. Johnson.”

The arbitrator in the case, Edmund D. Cooke Jr., ruled in the case that Johnson was fired by the Hooters manager because she “failed to comply with a policy that relied on racial features for its implementation, and then was implemented in a discriminatory manner adversely affecting African-American women.”

After the decision came down, Johnson expressed her happiness over the ruling, according to The Daily Record.

“Black people can have blond hair and the law agrees.”

Johnson’s attorney, Jessica P. Weber, also shared her feelings about the ruling.

“We hope this decision will motivate Hooters to revise its image policies and manager training program. Hopefully, no Hooters server will ever again be ordered to change her appearance because of her race.”

What do you think of this $250,000 win for the wrongly fired Hooters server? Do you agree that she was racially discriminated against?

[Photo: Wikimedia Commons]