Farryn Johnson, who is black, said she was fired for having blonde highlights in her otherwise dark hair, which the restaurant said violated the appearance policy for "Hooters girls."
Johnson, 25, was reprimanded about her highlights in June and fired in August when she did not change them. The problem? Her colleagues, including an Asian-American woman with bright red hair and a white woman with black hair and platinum highlights, were not given the same ultimatums.
In her complaint, filed to the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, said other black employees were also told to change their hair: White women with curly hair were allowed to work, but black women were told they had to straighten their curls.
Chief Human Resources Officer for Hooters of America Rebecca Sinclair denied the chain had discriminatory policies.
“When you’re representing an iconic brand there are standards to follow," Sinclair said in a statement. "Hooters Girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known."
"Hooters adamantly denies that it has different policies and standards for hair based on race," she continued. "As a global brand, Hooters embraces our culturally diverse employee base and our standards are applied impartially," Sinclair said in a statement.
Johnson, who worked at Hooters for almost a year, said that while she is seeking compensation for lost wages, she her primary goal is to get the chain to change its policy.
"She wants to show Hooters what they did was wrong and get them to change this," said her attorney, Jessica P. Weber.