A fired Hooters waitress in Maryland filed a complaint claiming she lost her job because her bosses felt her dyed hair was “unnatural” for an African-American woman, according to the complaint in the state’s civil rights commission.
Farryn Johnson, 25, said that problems started when she wore blonde highlights to work in June at the Baltimore Inner Harbor Hooters. The complaint, which was posted by the Baltimore Sun, stated that Johnson received a warning stating that her highlights violated Hooters policy. She pointed out co-workers of other races with dyed styles different from its natural color.
“I was specifically told that black women don’t have blonde hair so you need to take it out,” the former waitress told WJZ-TV on Monday. Johnson said in the complaint that she could not change her hair color when her manager asked her to because she couldn’t afford it. Hooters sent her home on Aug. 12 because she had not changed her hair color.
Johnson was fired on Aug. 23 because of her “improper image.”
“The problem here is that federal and state law clearly states that you can’t have two separate and distinct rules for employees — one for African-Americans and one for everyone else and that’s exactly what Hooters did here,” Johnson’s attorney Jessica Weber told WJZ-TV.
Maryland State Delegate Mary Washington told WJZ-TV she believes Johnson is one example of how women are held to different standards because of hair styles. She said companies have a right to set grooming standards but those standards should not discriminate against races. Washington said she has received complaints from men and women who have been told by employers to dye their hair because it showed too much gray and did not present a youthful look.
Hooters of America, through spokeswoman Rebecca Sinclair, denied the discrimination charges to the Baltimore Sun.
“When you’re representing an iconic brand there are standards to follow,” Sinclair said. “Hooters Girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known. 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.”
Even so, the two sides see things very differently.