Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A weighty lawsuit: Hooters sued for asking waitress to shed a few pounds

Last September I asked whether “fat” was the new protected class. A lawsuit filed earlier this week in Michigan seeks to answer this question in the affirmative. Cassandra Smith—5’8” and 132.5 pounds—claims that Hooters put her on a 30-day “weight probation” as a condition of keeping her employment. That probation followed a performance evaluation counseling her about the fit of her uniform and advising her to join a gym to fit better into the required uniform. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has the details, along with a copy of the lawsuit.

Unlike Michigan, Ohio’s statute does not include “weight” as a protected class. Nevertheless, decisions based on an employee’s can be discriminatory under the right circumstances. Morbid obesity can be a protected disability if it manifests in or is the result of a physiological condition. Weight could also be categorized as gender discrimination on the basis of sexual stereotyping.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or