PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A national restaurant chain could be sued by a Valley woman over its dress code for female employees.

Meagan Hunter worked at a north Phoenix Chili's restaurant for two years.

In that time, she said her bosses praised her constantly and even recommended her for a promotion.

After going to training for that new position, however, she said everything changed.

"To succeed in this company, I (was told) I would have to dress more gender appropriate," Hunter told Arizona's Family.

Hunter is a lesbian and said a boss told her she needed to dress more feminine if she truly 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.'"

Yet Hunter insisted that was the message. At training, she said she wore a shirt similar to those displayed by male managers. According to Hunter, her boss told her that such shirts were “for boys.”

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 son.

The American Civil Liberties Union took up Hunter's case and is currently having it heard by the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

"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.

A lawsuit against Chili's parent company, Brinker International, is currently pending.

In a statement to Arizona's Family, the company stated:

"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. 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."


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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