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Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider
By Robin Ruehlen, C & G Staff Writer
September 8, 2010
ROSEVILLE — An in-depth look into how national restaurant chain Hooters conducts hiring, firing and discipline matters of its so-called Hooters girls could begin as early as Sept. 28 in the case of Smith and Convery versus Hooters of Roseville Inc. and Hooters of America Inc.
Attorney Richard Bernstein said Hooters’ top executives can look forward to being in the hot seat in a Macomb County courtroom, answering questions under oath within the next several months.
“We’ll be asking some very difficult questions of Hooters’ corporate leaders. We want to know who they have terminated all across the country — not just in Michigan — and why,” Bernstein said.
“For example — what questions do you ask when you’re doing an interview? How do you train your human resources personnel and your managers, and how many women do you have on probation right now because you think they are too heavy?”
In an Aug. 23 written opinion, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Peter Maceroni denied a summary disposition by Hooters that claimed defendants Cassandra Marie Smith and Leanne Convery were bound by an arbitration agreement signed upon their hire.
Maceroni wrote that the defendants “may not have knowingly waived their right to litigate their claims in court should their claim be proven that they were never afforded an opportunity to take the agreement with them to consult with counsel.”
Attorney for Hooters of America Inc. Daniel G. Cohen said last week that the company was “considering its procedural options.” However, the discovery process and depositions for both sides are scheduled to move ahead regardless of whether the company decides to appeal Maceroni’s decision.
Bernstein said his clients are looking forward to being deposed and sharing their stories in court. Both Smith and Convery contend that they were placed on “weight probation” and threatened with termination if they did not lose weight within 30 days. The 5-foot-8-inches-tall, 132.5-pound Smith wore an extra-small size uniform at the time, and claims she was actually 145 pounds when she was hired.
Convery, who is 4 feet 11 inches tall and weighs 115 pounds, was told she had 30 days to make her extra-small tank top and shorts “fit more properly,” or she would lose her job. She then launched into a crash diet, she claims, losing 15 pounds in 30 days, but was fired anyway for “no improvement.”
Both are suing Hooters for more than $25,000 to cover lost wages, emotional distress and court costs.
“The more brazen a defendant is, the better the trial tends to be,” Bernstein.
“When (Vice President of Marketing) Mike McNeil holds a press conference announcing that his company will not allow Michigan civil rights laws to get in the way of its ability to uphold its image … it shows their incredibly cavalier approach to this case, and that they have no intention on following the law.”
Bernstein is referring to a press conference Hooters conducted outside of the Roseville location after the initial allegations were made.
The Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits employee discrimination based on weight. Hooters of America claims it has never before been sued for weight discrimination, “does not have a weight requirement, nor does it discriminate against anyone based on weight.”
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