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Suits Challenge Hooters on Wage-and-Hour Issues

Publication Date: 
April 09, 2010
The New York Times
Malia Wollan

Professor Gould is quoted in the New York Times on a class-action lawsuit filed against Hooters restaurant chain. Malia Wollan reports:

When Dina Partridge of Pleasanton first put on her Hooter Girl uniform in 2004, she was the single mother of a toddler daughter, she said, and she felt lucky.

“There were 1,200 applicants, and I was one out of 80 that got hired,” she said. “I thought I was going to make a lot of money and meet celebrities.”

Instead, Ms. Partridge was shocked not by the randy customers, the short-shorts and the plunging necklines, but because she says she spent her own money for her uniforms, worked long shifts without breaks and did not get her share of tips.

Now, Ms. Partridge, 30, is the lead plaintiff in what is perhaps the least salacious lawsuit imaginable against a restaurant chain that capitalizes on female sexuality. The Bay Area has become the epicenter for a cascade of similar lawsuits against Hooters franchises across the state alleging that the restaurants failed to follow state law about its obligations to its workers.


“California is the most stringent and most expansive when it comes to pro-employee laws,” said William B. Gould IV, a law professor at Stanford University and the former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.


“Not all states say, as California does, that a uniform that is distinctive must be paid for by an employer,” Mr. Gould said.


Federal wage and hour laws mandate that employees choose to be part of a class-action lawsuit, which means that labor lawyers must track down employees and convince them to join a case. But in California, current and former employees are presumed to be part of a class-action lawsuit, which means more plaintiffs and bigger settlements, Mr. Gould said.


“Employers will scream bloody murder about this, but it’s clear that California lawyers are on to something here,” Mr. Gould said of filing such class-action wage and hour lawsuits.