Must One Be Female to Be a "Hooters Girl"?

January 16, 2009 ( - A Corpus Christi, Texas, man has filed a lawsuit claiming he was discriminated against based on his gender when he applied for a job as a server at Hooters.

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Nikolai Grushevski, well-qualified to work as a waiter, was told by a manager upon his visit to a Hooters restaurant that, locally and nationally, Hooters would not hire males for waiter positions. The lawsuit claims Grushevski was denied employment because of his gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

According to the suit, Hooters attempts to circumvent the law by referring to its wait staff as “Hooters Girls.” The suit says Hooters is incorrect in its defense for only hiring males because Hooters Girls’ primary job function is to serve food and drinks – tasks both males and females can perform.

In his suit, Grushevski points out he applied to become a food server, not a Hooters Girl. He said he is not attempting through his suit to deprive Hooters of the right to employ Hooters Girls, but is only attempting to ensure that males and females have the same opportunity to work as servers.

The suit accuses Hooters of attempting to “buffer itself against litigation” by informing potential male applicants both orally and on its Web site that males need not apply for a waiter position – thereby creating little or no record of males attempting to apply. Hooters’ claim that the positions of bartender and kitchen staff are gender neutral also does not insulate them from litigation since a company is not permitted to choose which positions are suitable for males or females, the suit says.

According to a news report from Business and Legal Reports, Hooters argues that "being female is reasonably necessary" to the performance of the Hooters Girl's job duties. "The element of female sex appeal is prevalent in the restaurants, and the company believes the Hooters Girl is as socially acceptable as a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, or a Radio City Rockette," the company says in the "About Us" section of its Web site, BLR notes

The company says about 68% of its client base are men.

Hooters also mentions its legal battles regarding the hiring policy. "A group of men in Chicago and a group in Maryland brought forth class action lawsuits challenging the Hooters restaurant chain's right to hire only women in front-of-house positions," the Web site says. "On November 25, 1997, federal magistrate Morton Denlow in Chicago approved a settlement of these class actions. Under the parties' agreement, Hooters will continue to be allowed to hire only women for the job of Hooters Girl."

BLR also reports that in 1995, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the company, but never filed a lawsuit.

The recently filed lawsuit is here .