A National Labor Relations Board administrative judge has ordered the reinstatement of a Hooters waitress who was terminated after she complained her restaurant's bikini contest was rigged.
In his May 19 ruling, the judge also ordered the restaurant to change parts of its employees' handbook, including provisions that prohibited discussing tips with other employees and insubordination.
According to the ruling by Administrative Law Judge William N. Cates in Los Angeles at the NLRB Division of Judges in Hootwinc L.L.C. and Ontario Wings L.L.C. d/b/a Hooters of Ontario Mills, Joint employees and Alexis Hanson et al., Ms. Hanson started work at the Hooters restaurant in Ontario, California in April 2011. Her joint employers were Oceanside, California-based Hootwinc, a restaurant management services company, and Ontario, California-based Hooters of Ontario, which operated the restaurant.
Ms. Hanson was suspended and then terminated after she complained about an employee bikini contest held at the restaurant on April 22, 2013, in which the winner's best friend and boyfriend had served as judges. The winner had previously won two other contests in which her best friend had served as a judge.
Ms. Hanson had previously also complained about the disparagement of employees at a bartenders meeting held earlier at the restaurant, in which waitresses were referred to as stupid, fat and a “dumb blonde.”
Judge Cates held that Ms. Hanson had engaged in protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. He ordered her reinstated and back wages paid.
“Did the company violate the Act when it suspended and discharged Hanson? The evidence establishes the company did,” said the ruling. “I find it clear that Hanson's discharge was motivated by her protected concerted activity.”
The judge also held that several provisions in the company's employee handbook infringed on employees' rights. These provisions concerned discussing tips, insubordination by employees, disrespect to guests, and discussing the company's business or legal affairs outside the company, among others. The company was ordered to modify the rules and post its changes at the restaurant.
In addition, Judge Cates held that an arbitration agreement that required employs to waive their right to bring class claims was unlawful.
The ruling, which has been widely publicized, was transferred to the National Labor Relations Board in Washington for consideration.