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Waitress says restaurant fired her due to brain surgery scar

A former Hooters waitress says that the restaurant fired her because of a scar on her head that was the result of a brain operation. She is accusing the national chain, which has locations in Denver, of disability discrimination because management forced her to wear a wig and sharply cut her hours when she was unable to.

The woman had spent more than seven years working at her Hooters branch when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She left work temporarily to have the tumor removed. The operation required her to shave her head and left her with a visible scar.

While recovering in the hospital, the waitress' manager visited her and assured her that the scar would not be a problem as long as she wore a cap or jewelry. However, shortly before she returned to work a Hooters regional manager told her that she would have to wear a wig.

Wigs can be expensive and the plaintiff was unable to afford one. But under pressure from her manager, she borrowed one and attempted to work a shift. However, wearing the wig was extremely uncomfortable due to the scar so she stopped wearing it. Though the waitress says that no customers complained, management virtually stopped assigning her hours, forcing her to quit, according to the lawsuit. The suit says that the surgery had left her disabled and that the requirement to wear a wig was a form of discrimination.

One interesting possible complication in this case is the nature of Hooters restaurants and how female employees are hired and evaluated. As a law professor noted, Hooters waitresses are partially intended by management to be sexually attractive to customers as part of the company's business model. In theory, Hooters could contend that not allowing the plaintiff to work due to her surgical scar was a business-related decision. It could raise questions about whether Hooters discriminates against female employees, however,

Source: ABC News, "Hooters Waitress Says Post-Brain Surgery Appearance Cost Her Job," Alyssa Newcomb, April 8, 2013

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