BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Maryland waitress wins a discrimination case. The former Hooters employee says she was fired because of her hair.
Amy Yensi reports a Baltimore arbitrator weighs in on her discipline and firing.
That woman tells WJZ the lawsuit was never just about her hair. She says it’s about ensuring that all employees are held to the same standards.
After waiting for more than a year, Farryn Johnson gets the phone call she’s been hoping for.
“She said, ‘Good news. The law was on your side,'” Johnson said.
Johnson claims she was fired from the Harborplace Hooters in 2013 because her blonde highlights weren’t allowed.
“They said it was literally because I’m black and black people don’t have blonde hair. That’s what a manager actually told me,” she said.
Johnson claims that waitresses of other races were not disciplined for having unnatural hair colors.
An arbitrator ruled this week that the facts clearly show that Hooters policy was implemented in a way that discriminated against the former waitress.
Johnson’s attorney says the restaurant chain’s image policy is too vague.
“People have implicit biases and those shine through unfortunately when they’re left with so much discretion to make decisions,” said Jessica P. Weber, attorney.
Yensi: “What are you hoping this ruling means for the Hooters image policy?”
Weber: “Having a racially discriminatory image policy is wrong. It violates the law. They can’t do it.”
Despite the arbitrator awarding Johnson over $250,000 for lost wages and attorney fees, Hooters denies any wrongdoing.
A statement on their website reads, in part: “Ms. Johnson’s claims of discrimination are simply without merit and Hooters received an adverse and flawed decision from the arbitrator presiding over the case.”
Johnson now works as a leasing consultant. She says the color of her hair is not an issue at her current job.
The former waitress is also asking Hooters for an official apology.