A 20-year-old former Hooters waitress filed a lawsuit against the restaurant chain yesterday, claiming that she was forced to resign from her server position due to weight discrimination.

Cassandra Smith is suing Hooters saying that both the management of her Roseville, Michigan location and two Human Resources representatives of the parent company, Hooters of America, put her on 30-day weight probation during a May 14 performance evaluation. Smith alleges that she was admonished for the fit of her extra-small uniform and asked to join a gym to improve her appearance.

At the time of the evaluation, Smith, who is 5’8”, weighed 132.5 pounds, which is, according to the complaint, less than what she weighed when she was originally recruited by management for employment in 2008. (At that time, Smith says she weighed 145 pounds.) Smith also alleges that prior to her May 14 evaluation, she received positive appraisals from management and was promoted to shift leader.

Smith resigned shortly after the assessment, saying that the subsequent disclosure of her weight probation to co-workers “produced an intensely humiliating, deeply offensive, untenable employment environment.” She is seeking $25,000 for lost wages, exemplary wages and emotional distress.

Hooters released a statement saying that, while it does uphold image standards for its more than 17,000 Hooters employees, it does not impose a weight requirement.
“No employee in Michigan has been counseled about their weight,” Mike McNeil, the Vice President of Marketing for Hooters America said in the press release. “However, we will say that our practice of upholding an image standard based on appearance, attitude and fitness for Hooters Girls is both legal and fair.”         

McNeil went on to compare Hooters’ standards to those used by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders or The Radio City Music Hall Rockettes.

Smith’s law suit alleges that the loss of her job violates Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discriminatory practices based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, familial status, marital status and, of course, weight.

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