A former Chili's employee has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the restaurant franchise, alleging that she was passed over for a promotion because she did not dress in accordance with her gender.
Chili's says that's not what happened, but the American Civil Liberties Union is now backing the former server saying that she has a "cut and dry" case because of her sexual orientation.
What are the details?
Meagan Hunter waited tables at a Chili's in Phoenix for two years. Servers wear standard-issue T-shirts as uniforms, so when she appeared at an interview for a promotion within the company in June, she wore a buttoned-down shirt and slacks, which she says is typical for male managers to wear at Chili's.
Hunter told Yahoo Lifestyle that after the interview, her general manager asked for a word with her outside.
"He told me the district operator said my clothes were baggy and I was inappropriately dressed for an interview," she recalled.
According to Hunter, she was told seven weeks later by the general manager, "We really want to hire you, however, we need you to dress more gender appropriate." Hunter replied, "Does that mean I should have my breasts hanging out to succeed in your company?"
To which her boss allegedly responded, "No, we're not going there; not in those words."
Then Hunter claimed she asked if she could wear a chef-style coat like the general manager, to which he allegedly replied, "That's for boys."
Hunter said she then resigned in protest.
In a blog post, the ACLU alleges that Hunter "was forced to quit because she didn't fit her boss's idea of what a woman should look like."
The ACLU filed the EEOC complaint on Hunter's behalf, saying they need a "Right to Sue" letter before they could file an actual lawsuit.
ACLU spokesman Steve Kilar told KTVK-TV, "This is one of the most cut and dry cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation that I ever heard."
KTVK reported that Hunter is a lesbian.
What does Chili's say?
Chili's issued a statement in response to the case, saying in part:
Meagan Hunter was not denied a promotion at Chili's, but instead was identified as a high-potential Team Member and offered the opportunity to be promoted into our Certified Shift Leader program to take the next step on her career journey. Feedback was given to her about our manager dress code guidelines, which apply to all managers regardless of gender identification or sexuality, but absolutely no mention was made of any need to conform to gender-specific clothing.
We will not and do not tolerate discriminatory behavior at Chili's. We stand committed to the tens of thousands of ChiliHeads from all walks of life who represent what we stand for each day. To all of our Guests, fans, former and current Team Members — we love you just as you are, and we intend to show that every single day.