A Hooters restaurant in North Carolina has been accused of racial discrimination in a lawsuit, which said managers made jokes about Black workers’ hairstyles and appearances
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges in a civil-action lawsuit filed Thursday that, prior to the layoffs, managers at the restaurant in Greensboro made “discriminatory comments” about workers who were Black or had dark skin tones.
These comments included “expressions of preference for white and light skin-toned servers, suggestions that light skin-toned servers were more presentable, and jokes about the appearance and hairstyles of Black and dark skin-toned servers,” the lawsuit alleged.
Managers also gave preferential treatment to workers who were white or had light skin tones, including being friendlier to them and giving them more lucrative shifts, the EEOC alleges in the lawsuit.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, the restaurant laid off its roughly 43 Hooters Girls, the lawsuit said. The workers were told that the layoffs would only be temporary, it added.
The restaurant began recalling some of the Hooters Girls, and by about mid-May 2020, 13 of them had been asked to return to work, the lawsuit said.
Prior to lockdown, 51% of the Hooters Girls at the restaurant were Black or dark-skinned, but of the workers who were recalled, only 8% were, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit alleged that the restaurant illegally chose not to rehire the workers on the basis of their race and color. It claimed that the violations were “willful and intentional and were committed with malice or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights” of the workers.
The EEOC asked the court to order Hooters to implement equal employment opportunities and to pay damages and backpay to Hooters Girls who were Black or had darker skin tones and were not rehired because of their race or color. If necessary, Hooters should also reinstate these workers, the EEOC said. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
Hooters did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment, made outside of regular working hours.