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Feds Quietly Drop Investigation Into Sex-Bias Probe

May 1, 1996

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The government has quietly ended its four-year sexual discrimination probe of Hooters, coming to the same conclusion as its sometimes snickering critics: We have better things to do.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had demanded a $22 million fine from the 170-restaurant chain after looking into complaints by four Chicago men who said they were denied the chance to serve suds alongside buxom young waitresses.

The EEOC also wanted Hooters to hire male waiters, compensate any men it had turned down for jobs, and set up a scholarship fund to enhance employment opportunities for men.

Ridiculous, said Rep. Harris Fawell, R-Ill, who had questioned the investigation, given the agency’s limited financial resources and heavy caseload.

The EEOC wouldn’t say how much it cost to conduct the investigation.

Columnists had a field day as Hooters fought both the EEOC and a private lawsuit filed by the men, asserting a constitutional right to have only females squeeze into its skimpy orange shorts and tight white shirts.

The chain even put out a mocking ad campaign that featured a burly, mustachioed man _ Vince Gigliotti, who manages a Hooters in Tampa _ wearing a blonde wig, short shorts, stuffed shirt and bedroom eyes.

The caption: ``Come on, Washington. Get a grip.″

The issue was a serious one, according to a March 6 letter from EEOC Chairman Gilbert F. Casellas to Fawell, chairman of a House subcommittee on employment. But, Casellas acknowledged, the agency did have more important matters to concentrate on.

``Denying any American a job simply because of his or her sex is a serious issue which should be taken seriously,″ Casellas wrote. ``The particular factual issues raised by Hooters do not transform this into a frivolous case or a subject for locker-room humor.″

But, Casellas added, since a private class-action lawsuit is pending, ``it is wiser for the EEOC to devote its scarce litigation resources to other cases.″

The reaction at the Tampa Hooters was mixed on Wednesday.

Gigliotti said his restaurant just wouldn’t have been the same with men wearing the trademark uniforms. ``Women don’t look at guys the same way men look at women,″ he said.

But don’t tell that to Mary Pinion, a mortgage broker across the room, having lunch with five of her female mortgage processors.

``Well, exactly how does he look at women?″ Pinion asked. ``Does he mean we don’t lust after men the same way men lust after women? We sure do, if they’re lustable.″

Dorothy Frook, having lunch with her husband and his friend, nodded toward her waitress’ tight orange shorts and said, ``I’d like to see a guy in those.″

But Frook’s lunch partner Charles Combs, who works down the street and comes in three times a week, said he’d stop if men were hired.

``The girls know how to take your order just right and they talk to you just right,″ he said. ``No guy can be friendly to me and make me want to come back.″

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