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Hooters settles gender discrimination lawsuit, gets to keep waitresses

September 30, 1997 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) _ Patrons of Hooters won’t find mustachioed musclemen in sexy T-shirts and shorts asking for their order.

The restaurant chain known for its scantily clad waitresses agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought by men turned down for jobs because of their gender.

The settlement allows Hooters to continue luring customers with an exclusively female staff of Hooters Girls. The chain also agreed to create a few other support jobs, such as bartenders and hosts, that must be filed without regard to gender.

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So women hoping for the same ``vicarious sexual recreation″ offered by Hooters Girls can forget it. There will be no Hooters Boys.

``Our business is on the female sex appeal side,″ Mike McNeil, a spokesman for the restaurant, said Tuesday.

``Over the years there have been lots of people who have suggested (offering some male sex appeal). Our answer is, if you think that’s a good, economically viable idea, get your capital together and go ahead and do it,″ he said.

Under the agreement, signed earlier this month, the restaurant chain agreed to set aside $2 million as compensation for men who were turned away from jobs because of their gender. Lawyers will get an additional $1.75 million. The agreement is subject to U.S. District Court approval.

Steven Saltzman, an attorney for plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, declined to comment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the discrimination complaint for four years, then dropped it in 1996 saying it had more important cases to pursue. The EEOC did, however, suggest that the chain hire men for the jobs held by Hooters Girls.

The recommendation drew snickers and ridicule. The chain put on a mock advertising campaign featuring a burly, mustachioed man wearing a blonde wig, short shorts and stuffed shirt, with the slogan ``Come on, Washington. Get a grip.″

The private lawsuit settles a consolidation of legal action brought by seven men from Illinois and Maryland who argued that their failure to get jobs at Hooters was a violation of federal law.

The restaurant said its hiring practice conformed with the Civil Rights Act because the chain is ``in the business of providing vicarious sexual recreation and female sexuality is a bonafide occupational qualification.″