Below is my Paper 2. It is required to post as one of the Deliverables mentioned in the Paper 2 Guidelines. If you have some time and want to read about Hooters’ unethical hiring practices go ahead! Sorry if the layout looks a little off – it looks better normally!
Hooters… its all about your Hooters
Although it is not the largest chain restaurant, Hooters has a unique reputation, and a very strong brand identity. The restaurant is known as a hang out spot to have beers and wings while watching the football game, but that isn’t where their reputation stems from. Hooters is known as the restaurant with sexy underdressed waitresses. The waitresses are all scantily clad dressed in their required uniform – bright orange spandex showing off perfectly toned butts, and tight white tops revealing just too much stomach and way too much of their voluptuous breasts. Their customers are mostly male; the company describes itself as being “a neighborhood place, not a typical family restaurant” (“About Hooters”). Can’t argue there, it is about as family friendly as a undies-stay-on strip club. In this Paper I will describe the current marketing and business strategies of Hooters in regards to their hiring attractive women employees through the Hooters homepage and different legal cases against the company for their practices. Next, I will argue that these hiring practices are unethical, and that it is also unethical to objectify women in this industry through looking at John Rawls’ theories of justice and equality.
The element of female sex appeal is extremely prevalent, and in fact their number one marketing technique to attract diners to their restaurant. Hooters isn’t selling a fabulous menu or dining options, Hooters is selling sex, “Hooters marketing, emphasizing the Hooters Girl and her sex appeal” (“About Hooters”). Hooters’ business motto sums it up, “You can sell the sizzle, but you have to deliver the steak.” As a business motto, that rises to the immediate top of most repulsive and suggestive I have ever heard. You can sell the sizzle but you have to deliver the steak? You can sell sex appeal and maybe even get a big tip, if you deliver properly? The page goes as far to say that although ‘hooters’ as a word may hold negative connotation to a sexually desired part of women, this is not the reason for the restaurants name. “Hooters does have an owl inside its logo and uses an owl theme sufficiently.” Yeah, right, it’s actually all about the owls.
An old employee handbook quoted online shares a repulsive consent form that all employees must sign, sharing with the employer how she is being seen as a sexual being and should be open to slight sexual harassment:
Female employees are required to sign that they “acknowledge and affirm” the following:
- My job duties require I wear the designated Hooters Girl uniform.
- My job duties require that I interact with and entertain the customers.
- The Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal and the work environment is one in which joking and entertaining conversations are commonplace.
- I do not find my job duties, uniform requirements, or work environment to be offensive, intimidating, hostile, or unwelcome (“Hooters”).
The Hooters website’s ‘About’ page discusses a brief, mundane history of the company before immediately diving into the critiques placed on Hooters for their sexualized female employees. The EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, investigated Hooters for hiring practices that discriminated against men but didn’t pursue litigation (‘About’). Three years later, a man filed a lawsuit against Hooters claiming that he had been discriminated against for his sex when applying for a waiting position. This case resulted in Hooters’ creation of three positions that are gender neutral – staff, service bartender, and host (Latuga v. Hooters Inc). Ultimately after cases about sex discrimination continued to surface, “settlement agreement acknowledged that “being female is reasonably necessary” to the performance of the Hooters Girl’s job duties, forever preserving the integrity of the Hooters Girl concept.” So Hooters ‘officially’ doesn’t discriminate against the sexes. More disturbing cases of sexual harassment and appearance discrimination have more recently surfaced including that of Cielieski v. Hooters in which Cielieski made claims that male co-workers and managers could watch her change into her uniform (Cielieski v. Hooters), and of Smith v. Hooters of Roseville, where Smith was put on weight probation and told she had to hit the gym in order to lose a couple pounds (Smith v. Hooters of Roseville). Apparently, Cassandra Smith was put on probation because she didn’t fit the weight requirements for being a Hooters Girl, the only sizes of Hooters waitress uniforms that are offered are extra-extra small, extra small, and small (Smith v. Hooters of Roseville).
Where should the line be drawn? Under the EEOC’s anti-discrimination laws, it is stated that employers cannot discriminate in the areas of sex, age, race, religion, disability, etc. (EEOC). But there is no current law regarding hiring practices discriminating against the lesser attractive. A 2010 Newsweek article, “How Much Is Beauty Worth at Work?” polled hiring employers about hiring attractive or unattractive employees. “61% of managers commissioned for a Newsweek survey said it’s advantageous for a woman to show off her figure in the workplace…sixty-four percent of hiring managers said they believe companies should be allowed to hire people based on looks—when a job requires an employee to be the “face” of a company at retail stores or in sales. But here’s the contradiction: 60 percent of them also said they believe most Americans would favor a law making it illegal to discriminate in hiring based on looks” (Bennett). The managers said even though most of the public would want to make it illegal, if good looks are necessary to put a face, or reputation on the company, then hiring for attractive employees should be permissible. But is that ethical?
Ultimately, no, it isn’t an ethical practice. Hooters should be making money because of the food being served, not how hot its waitresses are. A person shouldn’t be hired because they look good in a uniform, but they should be hired because they are qualified. Qualifications should not come in the terms of measurements of bust waist and hips, hair color, or the amount of make up one puts on. If two girls apply for a job, both the same age, but one is a smoke show with well-endowed breasts, a tight ass, and gorgeously bleached blonde hair that barely graduated from the local community college, and the other is average looking but with a degree from a well respected private university – clearly one is more qualified, but in the case of Hooters, Miss Smoke Show would receive the position, and that is not ethical.
I found a study that gives Hooters the title of an SOE, or sexually objectifying environment. The case defines a sexually objectifying environment as “(a) traditional gender roles exist, (b) a high probability of male contact exists (physically speaking, a male-dominated environment), (c) women typically hold less power than men in that environment, (d) a high degree of attention is drawn to sexual/ physical attributes of women’s bodies, and (e) there is the approval and acknowledgement of male gaze” (Szymanski). Traditional gender roles are followed in this restaurant chain, having the waitresses who have been historically women, only be women. The customers, or those being served, are predominantly male, proving that there is much male contact for the waitresses. There is an extreme focus on women’s bodies and their sexually appealing features. These factors provide the women employees of Hooters with a lack of power, making them unequal to men – and isn’t equality something that women fought for a long time ago?
There is a bigger picture here than hiring on the basis of looks, and that is how Hooters is selling sex appeal, or their waitresses’ bodies. Their advertisements aren’t selling the food, but in fact the product is a sexually appealing woman. A fantastic example of this is the Hooters website. Each page shows a waitress, each picture shows a voluptuous server that will be laying your food on the table. They aren’t advertising their food, or beer – they are advertising women’s bodies, portraying women’s bodies are not only desirable but an object. The objectification of women comes from the uniform, weight requirements, make up and hair recommendations, and conduct suggestions supplied by Hooters in order to be a Hooters Girl – the ‘Hooterization’ of women if you will.
John Rawls’ two principles of justice help to further examine the hiring practices and objectification of women at Hooters. John Rawls’ two principles:
“First: each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive basic liberty compatible with a similar liberty for other. Second: social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) reasonably expected to be to everyone’s advantage, and (b) attached to positions and offices open to all” (Sandel, Rawls).
I have already established that hiring at Hooters contains a massive bias towards attractive employees, leaving the possible candidates on an unequal playing field. The person hired should be the person who is most qualified for the position available, at the pay rate being offered. From the beginning of the application process, attractive candidates have an advantage that unattractive employees do not, even if they are equally qualified. All positions are not open to all, as the restaurant chain hires the person who fits the Hooters Girl identity, who will be able to sell her sex appeal. The inequality at hand – the level of attractiveness – is not something that is at everyone’s advantage. The only people who have an advantage in this situation are those who are considered beautiful, or at least attractive enough to rake in the bucks.
One may argue that the more attractive people deserve this advantage, but natural superiority in the form of attractiveness doesn’t make one more worthy, because “no one deserves his place in the distribution of native endowments, any more than one deserves one’s initial starting place in society” (Sandel, Rawls). None of the attractive candidates can claim effort or credit for the way they look, like a qualified and well-educated candidate can claim their education, or experience. Another point Rawls makes is that people should make decisions using a “veil of ignorance” (Sandel, Rawls). Meaning that employers should ignore these traits of beauty and physical attractiveness when choosing the most qualified or best candidate for the position. Ethically, this would be the most ethically sound method for hiring as the most qualified candidate would always come out on top, not the one who looks best in a skimpy uniform. Yes, prohibiting discrimination based on attractiveness is more ethical, moral, and should be followed, but one has to wonder why there aren’t governmental regulations in place requiring this. There should be policies protecting candidates against discrimination based on attractiveness.
This paper clearly highlights the unethical practices of the popular restaurant chain, Hooters. Not only does the company hire based on sex appeal and attractiveness, but also the essence of the restaurant is sexually objectifying the women waitresses. These practices are unethical and immoral from a consumer, employee, and public standpoint. Unfortunately there are no current policies or regulations prohibiting hiring based on attractiveness but the public is aware that it occurs and is unethical. Hooters may argue that changing the Hooters girl perception takes away from the ‘Hooters experience,’ but objectifying women to achieve a certain essence is a disgusting practice in itself, and if not made illegal, at least regulations should be enforced regarding hiring discrimination based on attractiveness.
“About Hooters.” Hooters. Hooters, LLC, 2012. Web. 26 Oct. 2012. <http://www.hooters.com/Company/About.aspx>.
Bennett, Jessica. “Poll: How Much Is Beauty Worth at Work?” Newsweek. The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC, 18 July 2010. Web. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2010/07/19/poll- how-much-is- beauty-worth-at-work.html>.
Ciesielski v. Hooters of America, Inc. UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS, EASTERN DIVISION. 2004. LexisNexis. Reed Elsevier Inc, n.d. Web. <http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/lnacademic/?>.
EEOC. “Discrimination By Type.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. USA.gov, n.d. Web. <http://www.eeoc.gov/>.
“Hooters.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Apr. 2012. Web. 01 Nov. 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooters>.
Latuga v. Hooters Inc. 1:93-cv-07709 ( N.D. Ill. ). 1993. The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. The University of Michigan Law School, 05 Aug. 2010. Web. <http://www.clearinghouse.net/detail.php?id=10692>.
Sandel, Michael J. “A Theory of Justice, John Rawls.” Justice: A Reader. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. N. pag. Print.
Smith v. Hooters of Roseville, Inc. Macomb County. 24 May 2010. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.disabilityleavelaw.com/uploads/file/2010%20S mith%20v_%20Hooters.pdf>.
Szymanski, Dawn M., Lauren B. Moffitt, and Erika R. Carr. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research.” The Counseling Psychologist SAGE. The Authors 2011, 2011. Web. <http://220.127.116.11/education/ce/sexual-objectification.pdf>.