Hooters Restaurant Facing Numerous Wage and Hour Class-Action Lawsuits


The restaurant chain that is famous for its chicken wings and infamous for its servers’ skimpy uniforms is now the target of a number of class-action lawsuits in California’s Bay Area—more than 6,000 employees of Hooters are being represented by an attorney who has filed three suits.

At issue is not discrimination or sexual harassment, however, but wage and overtime laws. The plaintiffs are alleging that, as Hooters employees, they were denied breaks during their shifts, not given the tips to which they were entitled, and either underpaid or not paid at all for working at special events such as bikini car washes, golf tournaments, car shows and promotional events.

The lawsuits also claim that the female servers, known as Hooter Girls, had to buy their own work clothes. All of the Hooter Girls have to wear the same uniform, which consists of orange short-shorts, a white tank top with the restaurant’s owl logo on it, footless pantyhose, white slouchy socks and high-top sneakers made by Skechers.

California law says that if an employee must wear a distinctive uniform, the company must provide it. An attorney for the Hooters franchises that are being sued said that his clients provided two uniforms for each server, but if a woman wants additional or replacement uniforms, she may choose to buy them for herself. The servers say that the shiny orange shorts get stained easily, and between them the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuits claim to have spent $1 million on uniforms in four years.

According to federal law, class-action wage and hour lawsuits can include only those employees who choose to join; in contrast, California’s wage and hour laws presume that all current and former employees are part of the lawsuit—which naturally results in more plaintiffs and larger settlements. The three class-action suits filed by one attorney, Burton F. Boltuch, mean that he has 6,000 Hooter Girls, busboys and dishwashers as clients.

California, which has stringent wage and hour laws that favor employees, leads the nation in this type of class-action suits. Employment-related class-action lawsuits increased more than 300 percent in the years between 2000 and 2005.

Hooters has been the target of other lawsuits; in 1997 the corporation paid $3.75 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by men who had been denied employment.

The first Hooters opened in Clearwater, Florida, in 1983, and the chain has since expanded to 450 locations in 43 states and 26 countries.


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