In Hooters of Ontario Mills [pdf], an NLRB Administrative Law Judge found that a California franchisee of Hooters unlawfully fired a waitress for complaining about a bikini contest that she perceived as fixed [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to lexis.com subscribers]. In the same decision, the ALJ also concluded that the restaurant maintained numerous illegal polices in its employee handbook.
Alexis Hanson, a Hooter Girl in an Ontario, California, outpost of the beer-and-wings establishment, complained to management that she believed that bar’s annual bikini contest was rigged. After the contest, she was terminated for “cursing at” the winner and the store’s Marketing Director. When she protested that she hadn’t cursed at anyone, the manager changed her tune and told Hanson, “Okay. Well, then you are being terminated for your negative social media posts.” The ALJ concluded that Hanson’s discharge was unlawfully motivated by her protected concerted activity (i.e., her complaints to the manager about the bikini contest). The ALJ was persuaded by the fact that the employer had failed to conduct an investigation before firing Hanson, and also by its shifting reasons for her termination.
The ALJ also concluded that a variety of policies in the restaurant’s employee handbook were overly broad violations of employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity:
Any other action or activity that the Company reasonably believes represents a threat to the smooth operation, goodwill or profitability of its business may result in discipline up to and including termination.
What are the takeaways from this case?
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