A waitress at a Hooters restaurant in Roseville, Michigan claims that she was put on "weight restriction" and is at risk for losing her job based on her appearance. Cassie Smith, who weighs 132 pounds and is 5 feet 8 inches tall, told New York Daily News that she is horrified and humiliated by the incident.
"These women proceeded to explain to me that I had 30 days and they would give me a free gym membership, and if I didn't improve within those 30 days I would be separated from the company," Cassie Smith said.
Representatives from Hooters have reportedly denied the waitress' claims, saying that there has been no employee in Michigan who has been counseled about weight gain. Yet, New York Daily News reports that Cassie Smith has already spoken with an employment lawyer and is considering legal action.
But does the waitress really have a valid legal claim based on a weight requirement? The woman seems to be well within normal weight range, but in the U.S. there are no laws that prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on physical appearance unless it implies some sort of sexual discrimination. Hooters asserts that their practice of "upholding an image standard based on appearance, attire and fitness for Hooters Girls is both legal and fair."
While many people would argue that this practice isn't fair, it is legal. According to FindLaw, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination based on the basis of race, national origin, gender, or religion. Weight or physical appearance is not a protected category. Thus, it's possible to terminate an employee under such criteria unless it is somehow tied into sexual discrimination or harassment.
Hooters Restaurant has been the subject of many recent lawsuits regarding harassment and labor violations. In the Houston area, there are 10 different Hooters locations that employ hundreds of workers. Anybody who has questions about the legality of the restaurant chain's employment practices should not hesitate to contact a Houston employment lawyer.
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