UnderCover Waitress: Hooters Lawsuit Settlement, California

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hooters Lawsuit Settlement, California

A class-action lawsuit against Hooters of America settled in December (2011.) Monetary information is being kept quiet, but there are changes going into effect to improve the working conditions of the waitresses, aka "Hooters Girls."

The lawsuit alleged that Hooters restaurants in California violated California's labor codes. California's labor codes are relatively strict; they are designed to protect the rights of the employee. Therefore, the settlement and the changes are relevant to California Hooters locations, but not necessarily locations in other states.

Hooters waitresses will not longer be held responsible for patrons who leave without paying (also known as "dine and dash.") I think any restaurant that routinely takes unpaid bills out of waitress tips is unethical, but to expect a 20-something in her underwear who has been bouncing around and playing "bimbo" to suddenly turn into the police and confront a 200 pound redneck man is asking a bit much. If a guest steals from you, call the real police. Don't send out Barbie and expect her to suddenly switch roles.

Hooters must pay waitresses for performing all waitress duties. This is one that infuriates me in any restaurant. I expect it is illegal in any state to require employees to work before signing in, and to require them to work after signing out. Unfortunately, it does happen in restaurants. On the flip side, we got in trouble for signing in and not starting work right away. Fair is fair.

Hooters will supply lockers for employees. This seems reasonable and necessary for any job that requires you to change clothes to work. Fully-clothed waitresses in restaurants with normal dress codes (for example, black pants, white shirt) just need a safe place to hang their jacket and stash their purse.

Hooters will guarantee break times. In California, employees must be given a ten-minute paid break for every four hours of work. Waitressing is hard work, we are on our feet and during busy shifts coordinating a bathroom break is not only difficult, it is low-priority.

I find the California Restaurant Association's (CRA) response to this requirement amusing, to say the least.

"The nature of the industry makes certain laws challenging to follow," said Daniel Conway, a spokesman for the California Restaurant Association.

"Lawsuits such as this one are putting restaurants on the defensive and potentially harming employees who may not want to take a break at a certain time...  it has put restaurants in the position of mandating breaks and forcing employees to take a break rather than putting an employee in a position of making a decision that works for them," Conway said. 

Really? Making sure employees get breaks robs us of our autonomy? Yeah, I can't imagine anything worse than being forced against my will to take a ten-minute break and not having to void my bladder at that time. What would I do with the time? I mean, I guess I could stretch, get a glass of water, wipe the sweat off of my face and pop a piece of bread in my mouth for a little extra energy.

No, the CRA is right. I'd much rather work straight through for six hours, because at least by then I will desperately need to void my bladder.

Last on the list is relaxation of requirements regarding the Hooters Girl "uniform." I'm not certain what those changes are, but I do know waitresses complain about the regulation pantyhose. I think they feel like the tight, thick support stockings that some diabetics have to wear.

Lemondrop had some interesting comments about dress requirements back in 2009, bold emphasis is mine:

Hooters has strict policies. But some of them are really bizarre -- seemingly inconsequential things like bobby pins or elastic hair bands are banned and grounds for termination. We can be fired regularly for things like rolling the waistband of their (sic) shorts, ... neglecting to change torn nylons, or for wearing the wrong-colored bra (white or nude) – and it happens regularly. 

Any restaurant that wants waitresses to wear their hair down doesn't care about the food. Of course, at Hooters they aren't bringing people in with the food. There is a reason restaurant employees wear our hair back -- so it doesn't fall in your food.

I am happy for the 400 or so Hooters employees and former employees who are vindicated and compensated in this settlement.


  1. I had no idea! Wow, they actually ding the waitress for that? Don't that have some sort of write off they can take for such situations? Jeez!

    1. Some restaurants do. It is another example of the employee with the least power taking the hit.

  2. Wow. Dinging the waitress for the dine and dash.. that's messed up.. It sounds like the Hooters' in Cali are slave drivers.
    And if I go in an establishment and the waitstaff has their hair down, 90% of the time there is a hair in my food.
    So I don't eat at places that let the waitstaff have their hair down.

    1. Hi, Darlene

      Holding the waitress responsible for 'dine and dash' is not just Hooters; it happens in lots of restaurants. It happened to me once -- just once, I guess I am lucky. In my case, they spent too much. Their bill came to between $30 and $40 bucks; they left $30 in cash and disappeared quickly. The remainder came out of my take, and no tip but I still had to pay tax on what my tips should have been.

      My colleague has had to pay the full bill a couple of times for people splitting without paying on busy shifts.

    2. They need to change the laws. That's like making the cashier pay out of check when the register comes up short; which is illegal in Pennsylvania.

      If the restaurant doesn't want it happening, they need to take steps to rectify the situation.

      The last time I checked, "police" didn't fall into the "waitress" job description.

  3. It sounds like the owners of Hooters restaurants need to be slapped upside the head a few hundred times to me...

  4. @William, true, but I felt that way loooong before this lawsuit came to pass... ;-)

  5. @Ninja Gal, Thank you for that. It is utterly amazing what various and sundry responsibilities get rolled in to "waitress job description" in some restaurants.

  6. As far as the dine-and-dash, there have been numerous stories about convenience store employees fired because they followed a thief out of the store to stop them for police, or attempting to get a license plate number. Some have been injured or killed doing such things. Having been required to pay for stolen food seems designed to provoke confrontations, contrary to the safety of everyone nearby.

    I guess the wait staff is expected to notice the offender(s) leaving and shame them into paying? Or use "harsh language", (movie reference to DEMOLITION MAN), to get them to pay?

  7. As a previous hooters girl in North Carolina, I can relate to this in do many ways!!! I've seen the dine & dash in hooters & at other places I have worked. The rules to be a hooters girl are way too strict! Every single night going into work, I had no clue if I would be sent home due to my make up, hair or clothing. We were all told to go out and purchase the bombshell bra(nude) from Victoria Secret wich was around $70 after tax. The management would even check to make sure you had that bra if not, you went home. HELLO, we wore black every other day so I don't see why we had to wear only a nude bra! As for the panty hose. They were footless which was nice but yes, they were tight. They are called 'suntan' so if you are allergic to tanning beds like me, they do not match the rest of your body. While I worked at hooters, I was in phlebotomy school so I could not have long nor painted nail's. I got so much crap from management about that. I don't know about other stores but the one I was at, if you ripped your hose while working, they made you change into a free pair. I use to wear old ones to work that I knew would rip to just get them for free. Its a fun place to work but very costly. I have tattoos on both of my wrist and was not able to wear a bracelet nor watch to hide them. Had to spend over $100 on dermablend to cover them up which made me look like I had bad bruises. Not cute. Be careful if you go work for them. Be sure to watch undercover boss the one on hooters. Most of the stuff on the show actually happened to me. Pretty petty & pathetic. Won't work there again!

  8. Hooters discriminates against males by only hiring females as waitresses. They try to circumvent this by calling servers "hooters girls"

    If I were a male working in the kitchen I would ask management to transfer me to a server... if he denies it then I would sue for discrimination.

    Hooters settles similar claims monthly

    1. I't sounds like you want to be a hooters girl. funny because a lot of males dominate certain professions and women are constantly discriminated against. So relax Mr sue happy.

    2. By the way it has already been done and guess what only girls can be HOOTERS GIRL. NO ONE WANTS TO SEE YOUR UGLY BUTT IN SHORTS. Local man Nikolai Grushevski brought a class action lawsuit against a Hooter’s franchise in Corpus Christi, Texas after the restaurant passed on hiring him as a waiter, who are also known as the Hooter’s Girls. Grushevski’s lawyer claimed he was proud to have stood up for his rights under the Equal Opportunity Employment Act.

      Hooter’s settled the case out of court recently for an undisclosed amount. The restaurant chain was expected to mount a strong defense known as the “Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications,” which has also been used by Playboy and Sports Illustrated to defend their female-only hiring policies for models.

      The rumor mill has said that Grushevski got $1,000 and his attorney’s fees in the settlement, but this was unconfirmed. Hooter’s settled a similar suit in 1997 for $3.7 million, and both that settlement and this one stipulated that Hooter’s would be able to continue its female-only hiring policy.

      There was no word on whether Corpus Christi Hooter’s patrons would have wanted to see Grushevski in a tight white Hooter’s Girls T-shirt and those short shorts when they came in for a burger and a beer. Perhaps it’s better for us all that Hooter’s was willing to settle this one out of court. It sure does seem like a shady way to make a grand, however.

      Read more: http://blog.etundra.com/restaurant-trends-and-news/hooters-guy/#ixzz2CkbXIv3o

  9. my boyfriend works at the hooters casino in vegas, as a dealer. he has long hair, and its shaved underneath because his hir is to thick and he gets hot. his hair has been like this sence he was in middle school. hes 27 now. hes beeen working at hooters for just about a year now, some company just bought them, and there threating his job if he doesnt cut his hair, telling him he cant were it in a pony tail. but the dress code say that boys have to have ther hair no longer than there shirt coller, ans it is longer than that but only by 2 inches, thats where he likes it. so he puts it up in a pony tail, and it it meets the length requirement. looks professional, hes been doint it for almost a year now. but all of the sudden they have a problem with it. what can he do?

    1. You can't piss against the wind. Find another job or get a buzz cut.Sorry, be realistic!

  10. There is a Wild House Sports Bar and Grill in Fort Myers . The grils are preetier , the food is better , the atmosheere is great . Privately own new restaurant . Much better than Hooters. Trust me.


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