Suit: Hooters Waitress Forced Out After Surgery

April 8, 2013

A former waitress at a suburban St. Louis Hooters restaurant has filed a lawsuit claiming she was forced out of her job after undergoing brain surgery.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Sandro Lupo claimed that she initially was told she could return to work with buzz-cut hair and a healing scar.

But her bosses later changed course and told her couldn’t work at the St. Peters restaurant without a wig. Lupo tried to wear a wig but stopped because she said it impaired her healing. The suit claims the company then cut her hours until she was forced to quit.

Lupo is seeking unspecified financial damages in the discrimination lawsuit, which was initially filed in St. Charles County Circuit Court but was moved last week to federal court at Hooter’s request.

In court filings Friday, the company denied Lupo’s accusations. Hooters’ defense said the suit should be dismissed and that she should be required to arbitrate her claim.

The Americans with Disabilities Act bans discrimination on the basis of a disability, which can be defined to be an actual physical or mental impairment, a history of having an impairment or even the perception of one because of someone’s appearance.

Justine Lisser, a lawyer with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in Washington, cannot comment on a specific case but said someone with a scar from brain surgery could be covered by all three of those. Lisser said a discrimination defendant cannot claim “customer preference” if the plaintiff is able to perform the “essential functions” of the job.

Lupo was working her way through nursing school last summer when she underwent brain surgery to remove a large, noncancerous mass. Her lawyer, Larry Bagsby, said her treatment by Hooters left her “humiliated” and unemployed, but that the surgery caused no long-term effect. He said Lupo is now working as a registered nurse.

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