Being a food server isn't glamorous work, but there's no shortage of restaurateurs these days who insist on hiring attractive, shapely waitresses dolled up in skimpy outfits as a way to woo more customers. The so-called "breastaurant" boom has spurred scrutiny into how managers decide who is right for the job as well as investigations into possible discriminatory hiring.
Jennifer Rogers (above, left) is among those who alleges that she was denied a job because she didn't have the right body type. Rogers applied at the Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery in Palm Desert, Calif., but was rejected from job as a "Kilt Girl" when the restaurant's mandated "uniform" didn't fit, Rogers told KESQ in Palm Springs.
"Because the skirt was a size too small, they said that I could not work there," Rogers told the TV station. "I couldn't wear the uniform."
The restaurant, which is soon to reopen after a being closed for a year and a half, is one of 65 pubs with locations in 22 states and Canada. The Bakersfield Californian described the chain's theme as "a sports bar and restaurant that's sort of Hooters with a Scottish twist."
Waitresses for the Tempe, Ariz.-based chain are known as "Kilt Girls," and applicants for the position must "adhere to the established guidelines" and "maintain a costume fit, as detailed in the appearance guidelines." (The site also features a monthly Kilt Girl, photographed wearing a bikini as well as "current hobbies and goals" and "favorite pub menu item.")
The listing for jobs at the Palm Desert store noted, "We are entertainers first and servers second." But Rogers was simply looking for job, and questions why applicants have to look a certain way. "It's not fair," she said.
Bryan VanderMeer, general manager of the Palm Desert location, told KESQ that the company has "very specific costume requirements that the girls need to fill and they're actually hired as entertainers, not as servers."
In a statement provided to ABCNews.com, Tilted Kilt's corporate office said it "specifically hires females for the role of the Kilt Girl who fit our profile, which includes being attractive, intelligent and having outgoing personalities."
The company also said its hiring practices comply with state and federal labor laws. "We have three sizes of costumes and all applicants must conform to our costume guidelines to meet the expectations that our guests have for the brand," the statement said.
Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants based on their race, color, religion, sex or national origin, but there is nothing regarding body type.
However, as ABCNews.com notes, there is a clause that says employers may "admit or employ any individual in any such program, on the basis of his religion, sex, or national origin in those certain instances where religion, sex, or national origin is a bona fide occupational qualification reasonably necessary to the normal operation of that particular business or enterprise."
Nonetheless, other, similarly themed chains, such as Marylou's Coffee, a Boston-area chain that employs "bubbly, attractive teens," has been investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for possible violations of hiring laws.
The local head of the EEOC defended the probe of Marylou's, even though no one had filed a complaint against the company, through what are known as "commission-initiated investigations," the Boston Herald reported in June.
"It's possible that applicants or employees may not know they've been discriminated against, based on their age or any factor," said Robert Saunders, director of the EEOC's Boston office.
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