Wednesday, January 07, 2009

What A Hoot

This story has all kinds of wrong:

A waitress was barred from working at the Hooters restaurant in Davenport after a violent physical attack left her bruised and unable to meet company standards for maintaining a "glamorous appearance."

The waitress alleges she was fired after taking time off to recover from the assault. Hooters officials say the waitress abandoned her job, but also say that the woman's bruised body made her temporarily ineligible to work as a "Hooters Girl."

An administrative law judge who presided over a recent public hearing dealing with 27-year-old Sara Dye's request for unemployment benefits ruled against the company and awarded benefits to Dye. Judge Teresa Hillary found that Dye's "inability to work due to bruises" did not amount to workplace misconduct.

According to testimony at the hearing, Dye was the victim of several incidents of domestic violence in 2008, the last of which occurred Sept. 3 after she left work for the day. Dye, who lives in Rock Island, Ill., was badly beaten and her assailant - unidentified at the hearing - cut off some of her hair.

The next day, Dye and her managers agreed that at least for the next few weeks she should not be working in the restaurant. General Manager Gina Sheedy testified that Dye's bruises would have been visible outside the Hooters uniform, which is known for being revealing.

"We told her it was probably not in her best interest to work for a while because of the state of her body," Sheedy testified.

The first kind of wrong has to do with the nebulous concept of sick leave, time for a worker to recover before needing to return to work. Yes, it probably isn't something the customers would appreciate to have a server wobble around all beaten up and ill, but I would have thought that the worker wouldn't appreciate going back to work in pain, either.

The second kind of wrong has to do with the way this particular job is defined. It's not just carrying food to waiting customers, nope. It's all about wearing a 'revealing uniform' and more:

Hillary asked Sheedy whether the restaurant would have agreed to a request from Dye to return to work immediately.

"No, probably not," Sheedy replied. "She probably would not be able to work because of her black eye and the bruises on her face. ... Our handbook states you have to have a glamorous appearance. It doesn't actually say, 'Bruises on your face are not allowed.' It does talk about the all-American cheerleader look."

Sheedy said Dye could now resume working at Hooters, assuming she maintained a glamorous appearance.

"And a glamorous appearance to you means you can't have bruises on your face or your body that show outside the uniform?" Hillary asked.

"Correct," Sheedy replied.

You have to look glamorous! Like an all-American scantily clad cheerleader. Actually, like an all-American cheerleader on a date:

Hillary asked Duvall what would happen if a waitress's hair had to be cut as a result of an injury from an accident.

Duvall said that according to the company handbook, a waitress's hair "needs to be styled as if you're going out on a big date on a Saturday night, as if you're preparing for a photo shoot."

So why do we pretend that the women are waitresses only? And if they are waitresses only, why the extra requirements?

The last kind of wrong (of those I can pick out) has to do with the domestic violence that caused Dye's bruises, the hair-cutting incident and so on, and the way this interacts in all sorts of odd ways with the job of looking glamorous and not having short hair and looking accessible to male customers.