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Missouri women sues Hooters for workplace discrimination

A former waitress for the Hooters restaurant chain claims she was discriminated against on the basis of disability following brain surgery in 2012. The woman has filed a lawsuit in Missouri court seeking $25,000 for emotional and mental distress she says she suffered as a result of the alleged employment discrimination. She also seeks punitive damages and attorney fees against the restaurant chain.

The woman began working for Hooters in 2005 and continued working there while she attended nursing school. In June 2012, just six weeks before her graduation, she began suffering numbness and tingling on the left side of her body. She was diagnosed with bleeding on the brain and underwent surgery on July 2, 2012. While she was still hospitalized, the woman's manager visited her and told her that she could come back to work just as soon as she was able.

The woman was released to return to work on July, 16, 2012. Upon her return to work, she was told she would have to wear a wig to cover her hair, which had been closely cropped for the surgery, and surgical wound. Because she could not afford to buy a wig, she borrowed one. However, she could not wear it due to pain from the healing cranial wound. Hooters thereafter reduced her hours from several shifts a week to just one shift. She ultimately was forced to resign because her hours had been cut so much that she could no longer make a living.

Disability discrimination is illegal under both Missouri and federal law. Under the law, employers have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to their disabled employees so that they are able to perform their essential job functions. If an employer fails to make reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee or takes adverse action against an employee because of the employee's disability, the employer may be legally liable for damages.

Source: NBC News, "Hooters sued by former waitress in war over wig," Amy Langfield, April 9, 2013

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