Yesha Callahan

Former Hooters Waitress Wins Lawsuit Over Highlighted Hair

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In 2013, we wrote about Hooters waitress Farryn Johnson and her firing from a Hooters in Baltimore, Maryland because of the highlights she wore in her hair.

Two years ago, Johnson stated she was fired because her hair color violated employee image standards.

“My other coworkers, they all had different colors in their hair, like red and blonde highlights. I didn’t think it would be an issue,” she said.

Now two years later, Johnson has successfully won her lawsuit against Hooters. Johnson was awarded $250,000 by a Maryland arbitrator for lost wages and legal fees. The arbitrator  stated that Hooters violated state and federal civil rights laws by implementing the hair policy in a manner that “adversely [affected] African-American women.”

But not everyone agrees with the judgement. Especially Hooters brand manager Ericka Whitaker, who is also black.

“As a former Hooters girl who happens to be African American, I, like countless other African-American Hooters girls today, regularly wore my hair in various shades of blond, or any other color consistent with our ‘girl next door’ image,” Whitaker argued.

The chain also stated that their former employee isn’t going to receive all of that money.

“Ms. Johnson did not receive $250,000 in back pay, but rather only $11,886.40, while her attorneys on the other hand received approximately $244,000 in attorneys’ fees,” Hooters stated.

  1. April 10, 2015 - Reply

    “Ms. Johnson did not receive $250,000 in back pay, but rather only $11,886.40, while her attorneys on the other hand received approximately $244,000 in attorneys’ fees”

    the only reason they made that statement was to diminish her win. what does it matter how the 250k gets split? the point is hooters lost to the tune of 250k for discrimination.

    • April 10, 2015 - Reply


      Agreed. Ms Johnson may not have received $250k in back pay but Hooters certainly had to pay $250k at the end of the day. Not much to them but still.

      Also, why were her attorney bills so steep?

      • April 10, 2015 - Reply


        i’m guessing b/c she decided not to setlle. i read the court papers & it looks like her attorneys went through all the motions to find examples of other employees & how they were treated, they had written documentation from the managers who wrote her up for her hair color, etc. i don’t fault her. if i was in the same position, i would’ve done the same thing. let those attorneys fees rack up b/c hooters is the one that has to pay them. even if all she got was $1000, calling out discrimination is worth the trouble sometimes. especially when there are plenty of shills walking around like the one bw who felt the need to jump to hooters defense instead of admitting there might be a race problem. i wouldn’t be surprised if other black hooters girls find strength in this case & decide to file a class action suit. that would make her fight even more worth it.

        • April 10, 2015 - Reply


          Oh I see. Thanks. Yes, I agree it is worth it.

  2. April 10, 2015 - Reply

    Unless Ericka Whittaker was the manager of the same stablishment that Farryn worked out of, then she shouldn’t use her own personal anecdote to dispute that waitress’ claims. Just because one branch from a particular corporation does their business one way, it doesn’t mean that another branch does their own in a similar fashion. I’ve been a patron at several branches of one particular restaurant chain and I’ve noticed how each branch is different from the others. One restaurant’s model was rigid, sterile and too gung-ho on attempting to act as if it was a ‘five-star, celebrity hot-spot’ place. While another branch was more relax and family-friendly.
    But I understand why Whittaker is defending Hooter’s. It involves her job.
    Now in regards to Farryn’s accusation, I do believe her. The branch’s managers probably considered her hair to be “ghetto” and “unprofessional for a Black woman”. I doubt they could’ve hide behind the excuse of “it doesn’t promote her natural beauty” because I’m sure they would’ve sh*tted bricks if Ms. Johnson shown up to work with a TWA/twist-out/a baldie/sister locks/braids.
    Hooter’s, in my opinion, always give off the vibe that they really want just white, physically-appealing women to be servers in their establishments. Of course they cannot outright say that they want ‘pretty, white women who are slim and curvy’ because they will violate many codes. So, they hide behind a term like ‘the girl next door’.

  3. April 10, 2015 - Reply

    Farryn Johnson is right. She was not going through any radical transformation. She was just highlighting her hair. Hooters overreached and of course Farryn won the lawsuit. No corporation is immune from being forced to pay after they are found guilty. Many restaurants like Hooters want to promote some limited white Eurocentric physical aesthetics, but we live in a diverse world. Not all women will look the same even if they wear similar outfits in Hooters. Farryn was not using the common sense action of suing Hooters. The deal is that he received much less than $250,000, because of the lawyers’ fees. The lawyers’ fees were probably high, because the case took 2 years and suing a corporation can be expensive. Farryn receiving less money never minimizes the injustice. We should never stand for unfair human exploitation or the violation of our fundamental human rights at all. The overarching point is that discrimination is wrong and it must be opposed.

  4. April 11, 2015 - Reply

    I didn’t know they had black women working at Hooters. I think that place just objectifies women in the worst way. It’s disgusting to me. But i understand also folks got to make a living.

    • April 11, 2015 - Reply

      @Mary Burrell

      That’s a great point and I agree with you Sister.

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