EEOC fights for hunks to join Hooters attractions

This Just In ...

November 15, 1995|By DAN RODRICKS

I called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday but, of course, there was no one there. So we'll have to wait until all nonessential personnel return to work to find out whether the EEOC thinks Hooters should be renamed, "Guys In Orange Shorts."

Extreme? I dunno. Not when you consider how the EEOC wants Hooters to settle a discrimination-in-hiring complaint. (About $22 million in settlement, if need be.)

Against whom does the Atlanta-based restaurant chain allegedly discriminate?

Men.

Men who want to be Hooters girls!

The EEOC is demanding that Hooters hire guys for the front room. (And, one assumes, make them wear orange shorts and bend provocatively while serving shooters.) Hooters, with a location in Baltimore's Harborplace and 169 other places in the United States and Puerto Rico, features "Hooters girls" in tight shorts and T-shirts. The customers don't go there for the Jackeroo ribs. They eat. They drink. They gawk. They have fanciful interludes. They spend $300 million a year being Hooterized.

"Our concept relies on natural female sex appeal," is how a company spokesman puts it. "The Hooters girl is the cornerstone of our success."

Soon you'll see Hooters girls bouncing all over TV screens. There's a Hooters-sponsored, anti-government rally planned for Washington. The men who run Hooters are taking the offensive, figuring they'll win public support against an agency that has overreached in its efforts to end gender discrimination in hiring. "With a backlog of 100,000 cases, the EEOC certainly has more pressing issues of legitimate discrimination to which to devote its time and tax dollars," the company says. "Some people find Hooters tacky. But Hooters girls shouldn't have their jobs taken from them in the name of political correctness."

Would the EEOC actually force Hooters to fire women and replace them with men? I tried to check with the EEOC in Washington yesterday but it was closed.

So most of my information for this story comes from Hooters' public relations troops.

They say the EEOC first complained against the company in 1991. That year, a 42-year-old man named Michael Albergo sued Hooters in Florida for rejecting his application for a bartender's job. The EEOC sided with Albergo, saying that "Hooters fails to ZTC hire males as bartender-servers as a class" in violation of civil rights laws. That case, settled out of court, appears to have been the genesis of a broader EEOC action.

Hooters and the agency have tried to settle the matter privately. It wasn't until a few weeks ago, when the EEOC presented its conditions for settlement, that Hooters decided to contact the press and go on the offensive.

According to the company, the EEOC insists that Hooters:

* Provide $22 million for the "supposed male victims" of its hiring practices. According to Hooters spokesman Tad Dixon, the company must pay for large display ads in major newspapers, admitting to the discrimination and calling on any men who might have been victims of discrimination to come forward and make a claim. "Asking for more frivolous litigation in an already litigious society," Dixon says.

* Provide sensitivity training "to teach Hooters' employees how to be more sensitive to men's needs."

The men who run Hooters insist they have been "sensitive to men's needs" since the chain's founding in the 1980s. "Hooters girls are the attraction of the restaurant," says Jake Tapper, another spokesman. "It might not be for everybody, but it's honest work, the girls keep their clothes on "

Yeah, but just barely.

Look, let's inject a little common sense here. I know how to settle this mess (assuming the EEOC won't back off). Hooters should hire men, have them wear shorts and T-shirts, then rename the place "Hooters and Hunks."

'Pinch me'

This just in from our old friend, Tommy Shanks of Melonville:

"The Orioles sign Davey Johnson. The Browns want to move to Baltimore. My Girl Scout thin mint cookies just arrived. Pinch me, I must be dreaming!"

A judge's touch

A man in a tie parked his pickup truck on the Jones Falls Expressway on Monday morning and changed the flat tire on Jose Martinez's Oldsmobile. Jose couldn't budge the lug nuts. But the man in the tie did. He had all the tools. "He said he used to drive a truck in Mississippi, and seemed to know a lot about changing a tire," Jose says. "He did the entire bloody thing himself. He said he was a Circuit Court judge." Turned out to be Judge Kenneth L. Johnson, which is remarkable. Johnson's back and shoulder problems are well-known; he has had three operations, and often carries his left arm in a sling.

Unconventional wisdom

After the 2:30 showing of "Home For The Holidays" at the Senator, I had to agree with the man who said: "Once again, I've found a good movie the critics didn't like."

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