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Sterling Employment Law

Waitress fired over surgery scars

A former restaurant server is alleging employment discrimination in federal court after being terminated for her appearance after brain surgery. The case is attracting attention around the country including Michigan.

The incident occurred in July 2012, when the 27-year-old woman returned to work after a surgery to remove a mass from her cranium. The surgery left her hair short with visible scars. She alleges that the managers at the restaurant required her to wear a wig while at work to hide the effects of the surgery. The defendant maintains she could not afford a wig and when she borrowed one, it proved painful because of its contact with the surgical wounds.

The employer reduced the number of hours the waitress was allowed to work until she was forced to end her employment for financial reason. Her claims have been filed with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights with the federal lawsuit will be heard in the U.S. District Court in St. Louis. The defendant claims her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act were violated. The act prohibits discrimination against anyone based on physical or mental impairments. Arguments in the case may center on whether the results of the brain surgery qualifies as a disability and whether appearance can be considered as a job qualification.

Adverse job actions can have many causes. If the situation is beyond the control of the worker, they may have rights under the law. In this type of case, seeking the advice of a qualified employment attorney may be advisable. The attorney may be able to help the worker navigate the variety of agencies that have jurisdiction in these fields.

Source: ABC News, "Hooters Waitress Says Post-Brain Surgery Appearance Cost Her Job," Alyssa Newcomb, April 8, 2013

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