A black former waitress at a Baltimore Hooters filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, claiming she was fired because she dyed her hair, even though white waitresses are allowed to color their hair at the chain restaurant.
“My other co-workers, they all had different colors in their hair, like red and blond highlights. I didn’t think it would be an issue,” Farryn Johnson told CBS Baltimore.
In her racial discrimination complaint filed Monday, Johnson, 25, claimed the alleged discrimination took place between June 30 and Aug. 23. She alleged that her manager told her she wasn’t able to have blond highlights because she’s black.
“They gave me write-ups, and they told me I need to take the color out of my hair. And they said I couldn’t have blond in my hair because I’m black. They specifically said, ‘Black women don’t have blond in their hair, so you need to take it out,’” Johnson told the Baltimore CBS affiliate.
In her complaint to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, she wrote, “Because Hooters permits non-African-American women with their hair dyed colors vastly different from their natural hair colors to work as Hooters Girls, I believe Hooters only deemed my hair color ‘improper’ because I am an African-American woman. I was discharged because Hooters imposes different and more restrictive beauty standards on African-American women than it does on women of other races.”
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According to the complaint, Johnson said she was hired to work at a Baltimore Hooters in September. She showed up to work on June 30 with blond highlights, and her manager told her to get rid of them “because it did not look ‘natural’ on an African-American woman.”
Johnson also said she received a written warning over her hair color and was given six weeks to change it back after Hooters claimed the highlights “violated employee image standards.”
The complaint said despite the claim, Hooters “permitted non-African-American Hooters Girls to dye their hair colors that were significantly different from their natural hair colors. For example, Hooters permitted Carroll Tran, an Asian-American former employee with naturally black hair, to work with the tips of her hair dyed red and blond.” The complaint gave other similar examples.
Johnson said she didn’t listen to her manager and changed her hair because she couldn’t afford to. She then received another warning, and a manager said employees have to keep their hair color “within two shades darker or lighter than their natural color.” A manager said she could only return to work if she changed her hair back, according to the complaint.
Johnson’s attorney, Jessica Weber, said Hooters’ double standard is illegal.
“What’s wrong is that both federal and state law clearly say [sic] employers can’t impose two separate and distinct rules governing employee standards – one for African-American employees and one for everyone else. And that’s clearly what Hooters did here,” Weber told CBS Baltimore.
Hooters denied the premise that they have different standards for their waitresses.
“When you’re representing an iconic brand, there are standards to follow. Hooters Girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known,” Rebecca Sinclair, Hooters’ chief human resources officer, told the Baltimore Sun in a statement. “Hooters adamantly denies that it has different policies and standards for hair based on race. As a global brand, Hooters embraces our culturally diverse employee base and our standards are applied impartially.”