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Ex-Hooters Waitresses Win First Round in Court Battle Over Weight Discrimination

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A Macomb County judge has ruled that two former employees of a Hooters restaurant in Roseville, MI can proceed with their cases alleging weight discrimination. Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about the cases of Cassie Smith and Leanne Convery, who were reportedly fired from their local Hooters restaurant because of their weight. The company moved to have the case dismissed based on contract agreements that the two girls signed at the time of employment.

According to Hooters of America and Hooters of Roseville, the documents “mutually bound” all parties to arbitrate the discrimination claims instead of bringing them to the judicial system. However, in the opinion written by Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Peter Maceroni, which was delivered on Tuesday, the women “may not have knowingly waived their right to litigate their claims in court.”

Hooter’s policy may, in fact, violate Michigan laws. Michigan passed a law in 1976, the only state-wide law of its kind in the entire nation, that prohibits discrimination based on weight. The prohibition was part of a broader civil rights movement to protect the rights of female auto employees and prospective police officers and firefighters who claimed they were denied jobs because of physical standards that favored men. Hooters claims that these waitresses are entertainers and therefore not subject to the prohibitions found in Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act and may file for dismissal again if convincing evidence is produced.