Woman Claims Chili’s Denied Her Promotion Because She Didn’t Dress ‘Gender Appropriate’

PHOENIX (CBS Local) — A woman says she was denied a promotion at Chili’s Grill & Bar after allegedly being told to “dress more gender appropriate.”

Meagan Hunter, 35, worked at a Phoenix Chili’s restaurant for two years as a server. In that time, she said her bosses consistently praised her and even recommended her for a promotion.

But after going to training for that new position, she said everything changed, Arizona’s Family reports.

“If I wanted to succeed in this company,” Hunter says she was told, “I would have to dress more gender appropriate.”

At the training, Hunter, who is a lesbian, said she wore a shirt similar to what male managers at Chili’s wear. But she said her boss told her that such shirts were “for boys” and that she needed to dress more feminine if she wanted the promotion.

“I said, ‘I’m sorry, are you telling me I have to have my breasts hanging out in order for me to be successful in your company?’” Hunter said she asked her boss.

“His response was, ‘No, we’re not gonna go there. Not in those words,’” she said. Yet Hunter insisted that was the message.

Hunter then quit her job in protest. As a result, she was unemployed for a month and said she lost out on buying a house with her young son.

The American Civil Liberties Union took up Hunter’s case with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. ”

My opportunities at a company like Chili’s should not be limited because I am a lesbian who does not conform to Chili’s stereotypes about what a woman should look like,” she wrote in a post published by the ACLU.

“This is one of the most cut and dry cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation that I ever heard,” said Steve Kilar of the ACLU.

“Meagan Hunter was not denied a promotion at Chili’s, but instead she 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,” Chili’s parent company, Brinker International, said in a statement to Arizona’s Family. “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.”

Hunter wrote that she has since found a job elsewhere as a server, but is working fewer hours because she is new, and earning significantly less than she did with Chili’s.

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