As I See It

by

Published: April 3,2000

Enough is enough!

In the last week or so, a federal court jury decided that Cock of the Walk restaurants, including the one in Ridgeland, were guilty of job discrimination for a policy of hiring only males as table servers. Some females had applied for wait jobs in the early 1990s and were not hired because of the policy. The company said that the policy was in keeping with its 18th-century riverboat theme. This strategic choice was obviously not one that was available to them.

Similarly, Hooter’s, a chain of restaurants featuring scantily-clad help, was found to be discriminatory in its practice of hiring only female wait persons. Further, the restaurant was called to task because it only allowed females with the proper “physique” and appearance to wait tables while others were sentenced to kitchen duty. It mattered not in our justice system that Hooter’s patrons strongly objected to being served by males.

I have no doubt that both of these findings were the correct legal interpretation of existing law. I challenge the propriety of the law and suggest that society would not be harmed by allowing both of these restaurants to conduct their business as they see fit.

It is a matter of common sense that every new legally enforceable rule or right takes away a right from someone else. Speed limits impose a restriction on how fast we can drive. Similarly, tax laws restrict the use of our money. Both of these examples are necessary forfeiture of rights we exchange for the benefit of living in a civilized society.

Likewise, job safety and child labor laws are necessary to protect citizens from abusive workplace practices. Local police protect our property rights at the expense of others’ rights to help themselves to our “stuff.” Most people would agree that forfeiting these rights is necessary and desirable in exchange for the opportunity to live in this great land of ours.

Comes now the question of the hiring practices of Hooter’s and Cock of the Walk. I have difficulty understanding what detriment our society suffered at the hands of these policies. Further, it would seem to me, an inappropriately appointed female would likely be subject to patron ridicule in Hooter’s. Having never frequented the establishment myself, I am merely resorting to imagination as to the likely outcome.

What’s the next logical target for discrimination clean-up? How about “gentlemen’s clubs”? Imagine the frustration that would emanate in a smoke-filled bar when a hairy-legged man prances out seductively removing his clothing to the throb of a hoochie-coochie drum beat. Again, just using imagination here. How about a guy in the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders? How about featuring a guy in the Sports Illustrated annual swimsuit issue?

Lest we get too far afield, I readily admit that some degree of government regulation is necessary to prevent children being sent to the mines or being chained to factory machines. However, I fear that we far surpassed the rules required to protect the safety of our citizens and have gone overboard in limiting employer choices.

I have strong libertarian tendencies and believe we should be certain that there is a viable reason for government restriction of any right. Regulation always stifles creativity and should be minimized in a free society. It’s time to revisit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charter and make sure that in their zeal for stamping out employer discretion they don’t make restrictions just for the sake of exercising governmental power.

THOUGHT FOR THE MOMENT

Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

— LUKE 12:15

Joe D. Jones, CPA, is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is cpajones@msbusiness.com.

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