"Hooters Girl" Sues Over Disability Discrimination
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 9, 2006
ROCHESTER, NEW YORK--The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against the Hooters restaurant chain, over claims that it discriminated against an employee with multiple sclerosis.
Melissa Vicari worked as a Hooters Girl from 1998 to 2004. In 2003, her neurologist diagnosed her as having multiple sclerosis, then sent a note to Vicari's bosses saying she could work her regular waitress job -- but for shorter shifts and for just three days a week.
According to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the suit filed this week alleges that Hooters refused to accommodate Vicari's disability, giving her just one or two shifts a week. Often those shifts were during periods that typically produced few tips, it claims.
"She was essentially penalized for requesting a reasonable accommodation and given less work than what she was able to do," said Mark Penzel, an EEOC senior trial attorney. "And that you can't do."
The lawsuit reportedly asks for back wages, compensation and changes to the restaurant chain's employment policy.
"I want to change something about the way people look at MS," Vicari said. "And I want to stand up for myself and show people with my disability that they don't have to just say it's OK to not be treated as well as other employees."
Hooters has denied the allegations, arguing that it did try to accommodate Vicari's disability, that it "has a great deal of compassion" for her, and has offered to compensate her for back pay, including her estimated tip income.
"EEOC sues Hooters on behalf of ex-waitress" (Democrat & Chronicle)