Thank you to the Cleveland Jewish News for this wonderful story as I get ready to travel to Ohio this weekend to work with Cleveland...
A special thanks to Paula Tutman and WDIV Local 4 for their interest in the work of Achilles International as they begin working with the...
Richard Bernstein is no stranger to tough situations. As someone who is visually impaired, he’s had to face numerous challenges in life–challenges that might make...
Several Hooters Employees Defend Company
WDIV TV - ClickOnDetroit.com
June 2, 2010
ROSEVILLE, Mich. -- Hooters executives came out swinging Wednesday in response to a lawsuit filed by a former waitress after she said she was put on probation for supposedly gaining weight.
Mike McNeil, vice president of marketing for Hooters of America Inc., said during a news conference at a Roseville location that the company has fought several battles to uphold their image, and they are not going to back down from this one.
"We're not afraid of a fight, whether that be from a city, state or a law firm," said McNeil.
On May 24, Southfield-based Bernstein Law Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of 20-year-old Cassandra Smith of Roseville.
Smith said that during an employee evaluation she was told by the corporate office via teleconference that she was in danger of losing her job because of the fit of her uniform.
Smith said she was complimented on her attitude and customer service skills, but that during her uniform evaluation the women mentioned that her shirt and short size could use some improvement.
Smith said she is 5 feet 8 inches tall and 132 pounds and is completely comfortable with herself.
Smith said the women told her she would be given a free gym membership and had 30 days to improve, and if she did not, she would be separated from the company.
McNeil added that the plaintiff does not have a strong case because the company never took any action against her.
The company's uniforms are offered in small, extra small and double-extra small. Smith said she has actually lost 12 pounds since she was recruited to work there two years ago.
The suit alleges Hooters violated a civil rights act, which bars employers from discriminating on the basis of weight and height - the only such state law in the country.
McNeil said the company has an image to uphold and that image will not be tarnished because of a state law.
"It matters what they look like in Michigan and we intend to defend ourselves all the way," he said.
McNeil said Smith's lawsuit is baseless and self serving and that she is ruining her own case.
"In her own words -- the plaintiff has told everybody that would listen that she is 5 foot 8, which is certainly not overweight," said McNeil.
During the news conference, Hooters brought out three "Hooters Girls" to defend the company and its treatment of employees.
Raechel Holtgrave, Miss Hooters International 2009, said she has traveled around the world with the company and has put herself through college with the money she earned working there.
She added that the "Hooters girls" know that there is a certain standard that needs to be maintained, which is what makes working there so prestigious.
She laughed when she said, "If I have to eat an apple instead of a candy bar, it's definitely worth it."
Holtgrave added that she has never been asked how much she weighs, which is the same as Smith: 132 pounds.
"It's nothing new to me. I love it. It makes my job more special to be part of a selective group," said Ericka Whitaker, a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette and server from Atlanta.
Brittany Richter, a server at the Roseville restaurant took the podium and defended her manager and fellow employees and said it made her sad to think that people were being misinformed about her coworkers.
"I enjoy my job. I love coming to work. Hooters has helped put me through school with its tuition reimbursement," said Richter.
McNeil became angry when he mentioned that the only "victim" in the case was a manager at the restaurant, who had nothing to do with Smith's lawsuit. The manager was featured on national news and was the butt of a Jay Leno joke when a Hooters uniform was digitally transposed onto his body.
"If you need to pick on someone -- pick on me," said McNeil.
McNeil defended the company's position and said the girls know what is expected of them from the moment they are hired.
"What's expected is that they are hired by the image they have when they walk into the door," he said.
"We have no intentions of settling. This is a case we feel strong about," said McNeil.
Smith is asking for $25,000 in damages for lost wages and emotional distress. A second Hooters employee is also suing the company over discrimination claims. Information on that lawsuit will be released Wednesday afternoon.
Visually Impaired Athlete Sues USA Triathlon
Richard Bernstein Challenges ABA for Discrimination Against Blind Law Students
Michigan Sports Hall of Fame Honors Richard Bernstein with Courage Award
Attorney Richard Bernstein Named Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Victory! Disabled Win Access to U-M Stadium