"Hi there. My name is Bruce and I'll be your Hooters Girl tonight."
This could be the script for
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's latest civil rights triumph.
The EEOC is on the verge of destroying the persona of one of America's fastest-growing
restaurant chains. It is demanding that Hooters restaurants -- home of the notorious "Hooters
Girls" -- impose a hiring quota, guaranteeing that at least 40% of all the servers, bartenders and
hosts hired are male. The EEOC claims that Hooters owes at least $22 million in back pay to guys
who never even worked at its restaurants. And it also is demanding that the restaurant chain
revise the concept of Hooters and make it gender-neutral.
The EEOC's anti-Hooters vendetta began not in response to any complaint from
male job applicant but solely to an Oct. 22, 1991, charge by EEOC Commissioner Ricky
Silberman. EEOC regulations allow any commissioner to accuse any company of discrimination,
after which EEOC investigators seek supporting evidence. Ms. Silberman, now the executive
director of the Congressional Office of Compliance, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
Hooters informed the EEOC early on in the agency's investigation that only
women were hired for
those positions because the "primary function" of the Hooters Girls was "providing vicarious
sexual recreation." The Girls' "uniforms are designed to tempt and titillate, consisting of short
shorts and either low cut tank tops or half shirts, which are to be worn as form fitting as possible,
and the Girls are expected to enhance the titillation by their interaction with customers. They are
to flirt, cajole and tease the patrons."
Hooters lawyer Patricia Casey wrote to the EEOC: "The business of Hooters
is predominantly the
provision of entertainment, diversion, and amusement based on the sex appeal of the Hooters
Girls." The Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifies that a company can discriminate among job
applicants based on Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQ). The Playboy Club won
repeated court victories in the 1970s and 1980s when sued over its female-only Bunny policy. But
throughout the EEOC's investigation of Hooters, the agency ignored the company's hiring rationale.
The EEOC spent three years investigating Hooters, with eagle-eyed investigators
visiting eight of
the restaurants. In September 1994, after sampling an unknown number of happy hours and
Buffalo wings, the EEOC decreed that the business of Hooters was food, and that "no physical
trait unique to women is required to serve food and drink to customers in a restaurant."
After announcing Hooters' guilt, the EEOC began the settlement process, presenting
a list of
names it had culled from job applications that purported to show 1,423 men who had sought jobs
as Hooters waiters, hosts, or bartenders. However, Ms. Casey observed, the EEOC vastly
exaggerated the number of alleged victims. She sat with an EEOC investigator and lawyer going
through a box of applications: "They just wanted to see every single application that had a man's
name on it -- even though many of the applications could have been for kitchen jobs, such as cook
or dishwasher. If the guy wrote at the top that he would accept any position, or wrote nothing in
that space, then the EEOC officials" ludicrously concluded he was applying for a females-only position.
The EEOC demanded on Feb. 17, 1995, that Hooters set up a $10 million settlement
fund for the
1,423 guys allegedly denied jobs, as well as accept unlimited liability for all claimants who
responded to newspaper ads. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, any male who claims to
have applied for a waiter, host, or bartender job at Hooters could be entitled to up to $10,000.
According to the proposed settlement agreement, "The monetary relief awards
. . . will be
calculated using the U.S. Department of Labor's average earning figures (including tips) based on
the average turnover rate of eight months for individuals working in server, bartender, and host
positions. The amounts [will] also include interest calculated using rates based on the IRS [sic]."
The EEOC effectively assumed that after a guy applied for a job at Hooters he applied nowhere
else and sat by the phone for over half a year, waiting for a Hooters call.
The EEOC is demanding that Hooters place newspaper ads (covering a quarter
of a page, running
five weeks in a row) in many cities inviting any male who applied or "attempted to apply" for
employment as a waiter, bartender, or host with Hooters since 1983 to file a claim. Since most
restaurants do not keep job applications for longer than one year, the EEOC-mandated campaign
will provide a windfall for perjurers. It would be cheaper and more honest simply to require that
Hooters restaurants open their cash registers and invite men off the street to come in and grab a
handful of bills.
Once a claim is filed, the EEOC will be in charge of verifying its authenticity.
And how will the
EEOC do that? Primarily by checking the postmark, to make sure that it was mailed before the
deadline for the claims. (In a similar recent case in Chicago, the EEOC compelled a company to
give back pay to people who were actually in prison during the time of the allegedly biased hiring.)
The EEOC announced that Hooters will henceforth be considered guilty of violating
law any time the number of male hirees falls below 40% of the total (80% of the female hiring
rate). EEOC officials have also implied that Hooters must abandon its trademark concept of
Hooters Girls, since that image may illegally discourage male job applicants.
The EEOC also demands that Hooters agree to "establish a scholarly fund
to enhance the skills,
employment opportunities, or education of males." What sort of education program did the
EEOC have in mind? Teaching the new male hirees how to flirt with burly construction workers
without getting punched in the nose?
Hooters objected to the open-ended liability of the proposed settlement. The
EEOC responded on
Aug. 31 with a new proposal that would require Hooters to pay at least $22,171,421 "based on
missed opportunities" for guys who were not hired. The EEOC laboriously concocted an "average
male shortfall" for each Hooters restaurant -- based on the convenient assumption that half of the
hires should have been male. The commission sweetened the offer by suggesting that Hooters
would have to give the agency only $13.3 million to start the payoff process.
This Wednesday, Hooters launched a nationwide protest campaign against the
complete with 100 lightly clad, half-frozen Hooters Girls marching near the White House.
Hooters personnel distributed posters showing a beefy transvestite in a Hooters outfit: "Hooters
Guys? Washington -- Get a Grip!" and "Hooters Men? EEOC -- Think Again!" Hooters is
planning to distribute protest postcards at its restaurants for customers to send to the EEOC and
the White House.
EEOC lawyers are abusing civil rights laws to smash up a bar much in the way
movement sisters wielded their axes a hundred years before. One former high-ranking EEOC
official observed, "The women attorneys [at the EEOC] are hot to do this case because they want
to bust up a sexist restaurant chain. They . . . want to get at this wicked institution." But as
Hooters Girl Meghan O'Malley-Barnard observed at this week's rally, "I could lose my job, and
10,000 other Hooters Girls could lose their jobs."
Civil rights crusades have gone from allowing blacks to sit at lunch counters
government employees to dictate the cup size of the person who serves lunch. The EEOC's attack
on Hooters is a direct attack on the First Amendment's Freedom of Association. Hooters, which
has been characterized as the "Playboy Club for Rednecks," does no harm and the Hooters Girls
receive much larger tips than waitresses at many other restaurants. Yet, because a handful of
EEOC officials believe it is reprehensible for a restaurant to use titillation to sell beer and greasy
food, the weight of the federal government is falling on Hooters' head.
Mr. Bovard is the author of "Shakedown: How Government Screws You from A to Z" (Viking, 1995).
The Wall Street Journal
Copyright (c) 1995, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Tuesday, December 5, 1995
Letters to the Editor: Hootin' and Hollerin' Over Hooters
If guys could be Hooters Girls ("The EEOC's War on Hooters" by James
Bovard, editorial page,
Nov. 17), then I, a five-foot-six, not very athletic woman, should have an opportunity to be an
NFL quarterback. Pygmies should file retroactive suits against the NBA for discrimination. And
let's not forget the woman in a wheelchair who asserts her right to be a nude dancer.
The pathogenic premise embodied in the EEOC's mission is that everyone is entitled
to a job. The
private sector exists not for its own sake and profit, but to provide jobs to everyone who needs
them. Of course, if an individual with a particular appearance or skill or whatever ability a job
calls for actually has a job, then that job should be destroyed by a government that we pay to
protect the incompetent, the jealous, the mentally stagnant, and the terribly petty. The only
correct response to such a premise is for the businessman to turn in his keys to the government
and say, "Here, you do it."
Who are these destroyers? The legatees of well-intentioned altruism, well-
Humphrey and the altruistic Civil Rights Act of 1964. Once our good intentions created a right
for one group, we had to spread the rights to all groups. The only fallacy is, groups do not have
rights. Individuals do. But good intentions are everything. We are, after all, a moral people.
The commandeering by the government of a business's logo is a taking, and must
But why would the EEOC want to take away Hooters's logo? The graphic is that of an owl.
Anyone who sees female mammaries in the eyes of an owl is a -- well, he probably should just
contemplate that in whatever is left of the privacy of his own home. Besides, the Audubon Society
and all the spotted owl savers and Woodsy Owl fans should be up in arms that one of their own is
about to be removed as the mascot of a successful, harmless American enterprise. On the other
hand, if the EEOC is not dismantled, then successful, harmless American enterprise is in more
danger than some maladapted Strigiformes.
Lauren S. Bain
As a red-blooded, man-loving American woman, I vote for Hooters Restaurants
to hire hunks to
work alongside its scantily clad slave girls. There is no substitute for Sylvester Stallone-type
muscles in a Hooters tank top and short shorts.
If Hooters is going to hire women on the basis of their boobs and buns, then
men deserve an equal
chance to show off their heavy equipment to the customers. Should the restaurants choose not to
abolish their rule against hiring men to be Hooters Guys, then the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission should order the chain to do so.
Greenbacks from us girls who go for macho guys count just the same as those
of redneck men
who pay to see women running around in their underwear.
Virginia "Blue Jeans" Jenner
Whatever the legal merits or cost of the EEOC's war on Hooters, it's worth
it to see this
ridiculous restaurant chain, its apologists and its leering, pathetic clientele squirm and squawk
with indignation. Finally Hooters must come out from behind its coy ads, double entendres and
mediocre menu and admit that it's basically a sex-for-sale operation. Where are the righteous
family values editorialists on this one?
What people do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is their own business,
but why must militant
heterosexuals always impose their agenda on normal Americans and flaunt their sexuality in public?
Hooters, which has been characterized as the Playboy Club for Rednecks, "does
according to Mr. Bovard. Does the Journal aggree with this assertion? We are told by Hooters
lawyer, Patricia Casey, that the "primary function" of the Hooters Girls is "providing vicarious
sexual recreation" by dressing in "uniforms . . . designed to tempt and titillate." Furthermore,
"They are expected to enhance the titillation by their interaction with customers. They are to flirt,
cajole, and tease the patrons."
But rather than quibble over whether or not the Journal agrees with Mr. Bovard
does no harm, perhaps it would be more useful to learn the Journal's definition of harm in cases of
this kind. Also, would Journal executives and writers be apt to dine at Hooters with or without guests?
Sure, I know the whole thing is funny and ridiculous (especially the EEOC),
but I also believe that
the way Hooters has chosen to market its wares reflects a terrible coarsening of America's culture
and debasement of moral values. Just think what a great place Hooters provides for teenagers to
congregate after attending their sex education classes so they can begin to sharpen their newly
Cyrus J. Sharer
St. Davids, Pa.
I have a more practical solution to the Hooters-EEOC imbroglio: The restaurant
could form a
separate chain of eateries and employ hunky, well- endowed men to work as waiters. They could
dress in tight tank tops and shorts with codpieces, and titillate the ravenous women and gay men
who understandably feel ignored by Hooters' own brand of sexist service.
Thank God for the EEOC vs. Hooters controversy. Now, within the space of only
two or three
days, every American citizen will know what business people have known for a decade: the
regulatory agencies are completely out of control.
Proposed by well-intentioned liberals, enacted without regard for consequences,
signed into law
by a thoughtless president, and enforced to the max by gimlet-eyed bureaucrats, these regulations
are the antithesis of what America stands for.
Now, everybody knows it.
Harold S. Dallas
Colorado Springs, Colo.
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