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Ex-Hooters waitress sues, alleging weight bias

A former Hooters waitress who says she was told by management she was too heavy to work has sued the restaurant.
/ Source: Reuters

A former Hooters employee in a Detroit suburb has sued the restaurant chain, alleging she was unable to keep her job after being told to lose weight.

Cassandra Smith alleges that Hooters put her on 30-day "weight probation" and advised her to join a gym to improve her looks and fit into her required uniform.

The defendants then disclosed the 20-year-old Smith's status to other workers at a Roseville restaurant, creating an "intensely humiliating, deeply offensive, untenable" work environment, forcing her to resign, according to a lawsuit filed Monday in Macomb County Circuit Court.

Before the evaluation, Smith had received good reviews and a promotion to shift leader, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, Smith is 5'8" tall and weighs 132.5 pounds, down from 145 pounds when she was recruited for employment in 2008.

Hooters' conduct violated a Michigan law barring discrimination on the basis of weight, the complaint said.

"This is a woman working to put herself through school," Richard Bernstein, a lawyer for Smith, said in an interview.

"You have a corporation whose business model creates what I believe is an inappropriate workplace by requiring women to maintain an unhealthy weight," he said.

Hooters' servers wear tank tops and shorts.

According to the complaint, the uniforms come in three sizes: small, extra small and extra extra small.

In a statement, privately owned Hooters of America Inc said it has not asked any employee in Michigan to lose weight, does not enforce any weight requirement, and will defend against the plaintiff's "baseless and self-serving" charges.

The Atlanta-based company said there are more than 17,000 "Hooters Girls" in roughly 450 Hooters restaurants worldwide.

It said it does occasionally "challenge employees about their image," but that this happens "no more than a few dozen times" each year.

Smith seeks to recover lost wages, damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages.

The case is Smith v. Hooters of Roseville Inc et al, Circuit Court for Macomb County, Michigan, No. 10-2213-CD.