GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued a North Carolina Hooters restaurant for allegedly discriminating against Black or darker-skinned "Hooters Girls," the federal agency announced Thursday.
In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greensboro, North Carolina, Hooters temporarily laid off around 43 employees, dubbed "Hooters Girls" by the restaurant chain. The EEOC said in a lawsuit that the restaurant laid off a class of Black and dark-skinned women and recalled mostly white or light-skinned employees by May 2020.
There was a "marked shift in the racial composition of the restaurant's Hooters Girls workforce," when employees were called back in, according to the EEOC release.
The lawsuit said prior to layoffs, 51% of the Hooters Girls were Black or had dark skin; after May 2020, the percentage plummeted to 8%. The restaurant recalled 13 Hooters Girls, of whom 12 were white or light-skinned, the EEOC said.
The complaint also alleged that the darker-skinned Hooters Girls "experienced racial hostility and observed preferential treatment of White employees while employed at the restaurant" and received less lucrative shifts.
The Greensboro restaurant had no comment and directed CNN to the company's public relations department. CNN has reached out to Hooters National for comment.
The 'Hooters Girl' brand
Hooters Girls are "proud ambassadors" of the Hooters brand, the company's website says. Their wait staff is primarily young women.
Managers suggested light-skin-toned Hooters Girls "were more presentable" and made jokes about the Black and dark-skinned employees' appearance and hairstyles, the lawsuit alleged.
The restaurant's alleged behavior violates worker discrimination laws outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC said. The agency is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief against the company to prevent this conduct in the future, it said.
The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Greensboro division.
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