Hooters Restaurants Case Study 1

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Hooters Restaurants
Hooters Restaurants

Read the Hooters Restaurants case study.

After reviewing the case and studying Chapter 12, respond to the following two questions in an essay (introduction, body, and conclusion) format. Grading will be based on your ability to incorporate core ideas from the textbook and to respond to each question in a detailed and structured manner.

Case Study Questions

Minimum word count for each question is 350 to 400 words.

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Hooters Restaurants

1. Based on the information provided in the case, as the judge, would you decide in favor of Cassandra Smith and Leeanne Convery or not? Justify and support your decision by offering details.

2. Based on the information provided in the case and the textbook, would you consider Hooters’ treatment of Cassandra Smith and Leeanne Convery to be discrimination? If you think this treatment is discrimination, what kind of discrimination? What would be your recommendation to Hooters to minimize these types of issues in future?

APA Format, 

MGT229 – Lesson 9 ‒ Case Study

Hooters Restaurants   

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Background Information  Hooters restaurants are known for spicy chicken wings, the Owl mascot (i.e., “Hooters”) and Hooters’  girls, dressed in, as the company describes it, “white Hooters tank top, orange shorts, suntan hose,  white socks, solid white shoes, brown Hooters pouch, name‐tag and of course … a smile!” Hooters only  hires female servers and readily admits that “the element of female sex appeal” is part of its business,  but no more so, it argues, than the “socially acceptable” Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Sports Illustrated  swimsuit models, or Radio City Rockettes. Hooters states,    

The ‘nearly world famous’ Hooters Girls are the cornerstone of the Hooters concept, and as part  of their job, these all‐American cheerleaders make promotional and charitable appearances in  their respective communities. Hooters hires women who best fit the image of a Hooters Girl to  work in this capacity. 

Hooters Restaurants

Hooters provides detailed guidelines on its Web site about hair, eyes, skin, makeup, and exercise.  Consistent with maintaining the image of a Hooters Girl, all of its female wait staff must attend image  classes and pass an image quiz.    Current Issue  Hooters is being sued for discrimination by two waitresses from Roseville, Michigan, Cassandra Smith  and Leeanne Convery. Smith received positive performance evaluations and was promoted to shift  supervisor. But at her last evaluation, the 5’8″ Smith says she was advised to lose weight and join a gym,  despite dropping from 145 pounds, when hired, to her current 132.5 pounds. She says she was given 30  days to lose more weight, and when she didn’t, was fired. Says Smith, “I had these two women from  [Hooters headquarters in] Atlanta telling me I had 30 days to make an improvement, and I didn’t know  what I’m supposed to improve. I was proud of myself, working out the last months, losing 10 pounds to  get ready for my summer body. For that (phone call) to happen, it was almost a slap in the face.”  Convery, who is 4’11” and weighs 115 pounds, says she was also placed on weight probation and then  fired, despite losing 15 lbs.    Hooters Response  In a written statement, Hooters said, “No employee in Michigan has been asked to lose weight and …  the company does not enforce any weight requirement.” Company spokesperson Mike McNeil said,  “We never mentioned weight. We never mentioned pounds. We never mentioned scales.” But, he said,  “We have an image to uphold. We’ve been upholding it for 27 years. Hopefully, we’ll be doing it for  another 27 years.” Moreover, he said, “You’re hired based on the image you have when you walk  through the door.”    Additional Information  Discrimination is treating people differently in hiring, firing, promotion, training, and compensation  decisions because of nonperformance related criteria.  For example, age discrimination is treating  people differently because of their age.  Age discrimination typically occurs when older workers are fired  because of their age, or not hired, promoted, trained, or paid because of their age, rather than their  potential or performance.  The chapter discusses age, sex, race and ethnicity, and disability‐based 

discrimination in detail.  Despite good efforts and intentions, these kinds of discrimination still occur in  workplaces, but to a lesser degree than in the past.   

Federal law, based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, says that it is not unlawful to hire and employ  someone on the basis of sex, religion, or national origin.  Notice, however, that Title VII doesn’t say  anything about weight.  For instance, a professional woman wrote to the legal advice column of the Wall  Street Journal with this complaint, “I am a professional woman whose job at an Atlanta‐area company  was terminated after only one day. The recruiter told me the owner said he didn’t like me because I was  overweight and had large breasts. A smaller woman with less experience was hired to replace me. Can I  fight this?”  Attorney Thomas Mitchell, who was consulted by the columnist, said, “What happened is  wrong and unfair, but it’s really hard to persuade a court that it’s illegal under that context because the  employer didn’t replace you with a male.” Mitchell is indicating two things here. First, firing this woman  because of her weight was wrong, but it wasn’t illegal because weight is not covered under federal law  or state law (in this case, Georgia).  Second, there would have been a legal complaint if she had been  replaced by a man, but the basis of the case would have been sex discrimination and not weight  discrimination.   

Since the Hooters case was filed in Michigan, does Michigan law cover weight when it comes to  employment decisions?  Indeed, Michigan is the only state that does.  In 1976, Michigan passed the  Elliott‐Larsen Civil Rights Act which protects rights passed on religion, race, color, national origin, age,  sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status.  More specifically, Michigan employers are  prohibited from any of the following: To fail or refuse to hire or recruit, discharge, or otherwise  discriminate against an individual with respect to employment, compensation, or a term, condition, or  privilege of employment, because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or  marital status. 

So, under Michigan law Smith and Convery may have a case for weight discrimination.  That is, under  Michigan law, weight is a non‐job‐related criterion.  Smith and Convery’s attorney put it this way, “All  their job duties are those of a waitress.  Serve chicken wings, refill salt shakers, carry mugs of beer.”  In  other words, weight isn’t related to how well Smith and Convery do their jobs at Hooters.  So from the  plaintiffs’ perspective, under Michigan law, weight clearly should not be a factor in human resource  decisions.   

In Chapter 11 on human resource management, the general effect of Federal employment law, which is  still evolving through court decisions, is that employers may not discriminate in employment decisions  on the basis of sex, age, religion, color, national origin, race, or disability. The intent is to make these  factors irrelevant in employment decisions. Stated another way, employment decisions should be based  on factors that are “job related,” “reasonably necessary,” or a “business necessity” for successful job  performance.  

The only time that sex, age, religion, and the like can be used to make employment decisions is when  they are considered a bona fide occupational qualification(BFOQ).  Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act  says that it is not unlawful to hire and employ someone on the basis of sex, religion, or national origin  when there is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) that is “reasonably necessary to the normal  operation of that particular business.”  

For example, a Baptist church hiring a new minister can reasonably specify that being a Baptist rather  than a Catholic or Presbyterian is a BFOQ for the position. However, it’s unlikely that the church could 

specify race or national origin as a BFOQ. In general, the courts and the EEOC take a hard look when a  business claims that sex, age, religion, color, national origin, race, or disability is a BFOQ.  

  What to Do? 

As the judge in the case, you’ve got a number of key determinations to make. First, the women are  basically arguing that being fired for being too heavy is akin to being fired because of their age, religion,  sex, color, or national origin. In short, they say they’re being discriminated against because of their  weight. So, if Hooters fired them because they were too heavy, is that illegal under state and federal  law? Second, Hooters will claim that the image of the Hooter Girl is central to their business and  consequently allows them to discipline and fire waitresses for not maintaining that image. This can be  considered a bona fide occupational qualification. When a BFOQ is “reasonably necessary to the normal  operation of that particular business,” personnel decisions can be made on the basis of race, color,  religion, sex, or national origin. Is the Hooter Girl image, and more specifically, the weight of a Hooter  Girl, a BFOQ and thus a legally justifiable reason for Hooters’ hiring, firing, and promotion decisions?     Finally, Convery claims that since giving birth to her son, she has had problems maintaining her weight.  In other words, having children changes a woman’s physique, making it more difficult to return to one’s  pre‐baby weight. If this is true, could she possibly have a legal case on the basis of the Americans with  Disabilities Act?  Source: Adapted from MGMT 6 Instructor Resources, Chapter 12, Cengage Learning, 2013.

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