I tweeted a story last week about Georgia Blue, a Mississippi restaurant chain that was sued by a female server for failing to accommodate her religious request. The server was a devout Apostolic Pentecostal Christian who has a religious belief that women should only wear skirts or dresses. Georgia Blue’s dress code requires servers to wear blue jeans, so the server reached out to the company seeking a religious accommodation. When the company didn’t respond, the server showed up to work in a jean skirt. She was sent home for a dress code violation and told “the owner would not stray away” from the company dress code.
We’re pretty far down the rabbit hole with religious discrimination cases. Since Title VII was enacted in 1964, courts have been asked to find sincerely held religious beliefs in everything from the KKK, to veganism to a guy that liked to eat Kozy Kitten People cat food. (Swartzentruber v. Gunite Corp.) (Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital) (Brown v. Pena). But most recently, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York held that a team building tool called “Onionhead” was a religion for purposes of Title VII. (EEOC v. United Health Programs of America). Given the ruling, now seems like as good a time as any to brush up on religious discrimination laws in the workplace.
"Au Fudge," Here Comes the Judge: Cutesy Name of Celebrity Owned Restaurant Takes on New Meaning as Employees File Suit for $1.5 Million
To read the headlines, you’d think Jessica Biel was a monster. Biel and her business partners are accused of “stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from employees” at their kid-friendly L.A. restaurant, Au Fudge. In reality, Biel and company are being sued for conduct that isn’t necessarily illegal. This lawsuit is an important lesson for employers; not about pay practices, but about perception.
Sorry Taco Bell, I know you’d probably rather sweep this one under the rug. But what happened in Cleveland is an important lesson on the balance of compliance and good ole common sense. And by the way, I think you did the right thing.
The times they are a-changin’. Twenty-nine states, DC, Puerto Rico and Guam now have laws legalizing some form of marijuana, with fourteen more states expected to pass similar laws this year alone. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, America is in the depths of an escalating public health crisis, with the opioid epidemic now classified as the leading cause of death among Americans under fifty. National drug use is at an all-time high and employers need to know how to protect themselves.
Let’s set the scene: You’re interviewing Anne for a sales position and it’s going well. Anne is the most qualified applicant you’ve met and she seems like a real go-getter. You anticipate that you will offer her the job. As you’re wrapping up, Anne asks about the required hours that were listed in the job description: 9am – 5pm M-F with occasional need to stay later if necessary.
Every person who has applied for a job in the last ten years has probably heard that they should be careful what they post on social media. The risks to the applicant are obvious; posting something offensive or illegal could blow your shot at the job. But what about the risk to the employer? Contrary to popular belief, employers cannot just pour over an applicant’s social media accounts with impunity. Employers must be careful that their cybervetting does not give rise to discrimination or invasion of privacy claims.
Trash Talking the Boss Online: What Employers Need to Know Before Terminating for Social Media Misconduct
Okay, employers - pop quiz:
You own a sports bar and restaurant. One of your employees is mad when she finds out that she owes additional money in taxes. She claims you didn’t withhold enough of her earnings. She posts on Facebook: “Someone should do the owners of (your restaurant) a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly.” One of your bartenders comes along and comments on the post, saying that she too owes taxes and calls you (the owner) “such an a**hole.” Then your cook chimes in and “likes” the original comment. (Triple Play Sports Bar & Grille v. NLRB).
Q: Who can you fire and why?
Seven years and $12 million later, Texas Roadhouse has finally cried uncle. The company made the “business decision” to settle its long-running age discrimination lawsuit after a recent mistrial meant potentially facing years of continued legal bleeding. The case is the largest age discrimination suit the EEOC has brought to trial in more than thirty years, and an important reminder for employers everywhere that hiring for age can cost them big.
Settling for Hooters Girls Will Cost You Big: How Hooters Maintains Their Sex Based Hiring Practices
Hooters is one smart breastaurant. They’ve been able to maintain their "Hooters Girl" hiring practices through three lawsuits, including a class action, and an EEOC Commissioner’s Charge that had a settlement demand of over 22 million dollars. They are the gold standard for restaurants with sex based hiring practices. But for those without the resources of a billion-dollar company, Hooters should be a cautionary tale. Hiring practices based on protected characteristics are closely scrutinized by the EEOC and are only justifiable in certain, limited circumstances.
The final employment law lesson from this season of Vanderpump Rules touches on an important and often misunderstood type of discrimination – gender stereotyping. This season we saw the SURvers go on a joint bachelor/bachelorette trip where the men dressed up as women and the women hired a female stripper. This prompted one of the women, who is serving as a groomsman, to claim that this party was redefining traditional gender roles and what it means to be a man and a woman. That statement was more loaded than she probably even knows.
Who Says You Can’t Learn from TV? 5 Employment Law Lessons Courtesy of TV's Rowdiest Restaurant Staff
I’ve written about Vanderpump Rules before; the reality TV show that follows a group of model/actor hopefuls who work together at the Sexy Unique Restaurant (SUR) in LA. In addition to being beautiful, the staff is also wildly unruly. This season’s shenanigans illustrate some excellent employment law lessons about workplace relationships, hostile work environments, discipline, termination and defamation.
If You Like Hot Employees, You May Get Burned: Discrimination Concerns in Hiring Only Attractive People
There is a popular reality show called Vanderpump Rules that follows a group of aspiring actors and models who work in a restaurant in West Hollywood. Every single one of them is beautiful, as actors and models typically are. They are the ideal fit for the carefully curated aesthetic of the Sexy Unique Restaurant and Lounge (SUR). But while having an attractive staff may just be a nice perk of doing business in LA, for employers outside of the city of dreams, it raises a legitimate question: Is it legal to hire only attractive people? The answer is: It depends on what you find attractive.