Outside the Hooters restaurant near Baltimore's Inner Harbor, you can see images of the pretty waitresses, which have become the chain's trademark, but behind closed doors, one former waitress alleges that their beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
"I actually started noticing there was an issue when other African-American employees ... tried to come in to work wearing their hair curly, and they would get in trouble by management and they would tell them, 'You can't come back to work unless you straighten out your hair,'" said 25-year old Farryn Johnson who ran into some trouble of her own when she showed up one day with blonde highlights in her hair.
She claims her managers told her to change it or else.
"I didn't see that it would be a big issue just because there were a lot of other employees working at the restaurant of other races with color in their hair. For instance, there were Asian girls with red hair and Caucasian girls with black hair and blond streaks so I didn't think it would be an issue for the little piece of blonde highlight in my hair."
Balancing school with her work on a limited budget, Johnson says she could ill afford to return to the hair salon to change it, and a few months later she was fired for what the company deemed as her 'improper image'.
She has since filed a charge of discrimination.
"The law is clear that employers can't have two separate unequal sets of rules—one for African-Americans employees and one for everybody else, and yet that's exactly what Hooters did here in firing Miss Johnson, an African-American employee solely because she's African-American. They targeted her because of her hair solely because of her race," said Johnson's attorney, Jessie Weber.
We asked the parent company about this case, and Hooters of America responded by saying it will not comment on the pending litigation at this time.