|Cain Camp Sweating Out Sexual Harassment Charges|
The lawsuit started in the mid-1990s when Annette R. Phillips, a bartender at a Hooters in Myrtle Beach, quit and complained the brother of the owner grabbed her ass and slapped her buttocks. News reports at the time also said a manager had exposed himself to her. She was told to forget about it. Eventually, it escalated to a federal Title VII lawsuit over sex harassment and whether the restaurant chain discriminated, retaliated, or did Phillips wrong. Hooters said she had twice signed a deal consenting to arbitrate any claims -- employees had to sign to be eligible for raises, transfers and promotions. A federal appeals court said the predispute agreement was basically a joke.
The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond said the rules Hooters set up in 1996 gave it absolute control over any three-person arbitration panel set up to hear a sexual harassment case. In other words, sexually harassed women couldn't take their cases to court, and they couldn't get fair hearings before the company's panels. "Under the rules, Hooters is free to devise lists of partial [biased] arbitrators who have existing relationships, financial or familial. with Hooters and its management. In fact, the rules do not even prohibit Hooters from placing its managers themselves on the list. Further, nothing in the rules restricts Hooters from punishing arbitrators who rule against the company by removing them from the list. Give the unrestricted control that one party (Hooters) has over the panel, the selection of an impartial decision maker would be a surprising result. Nor is fairness to be found when the proceedings are begun." Phillips won in the appeals court and you can read the decision against Hooters by clicking here. What's truly amazing is that many experts saw that the Hooters panels were unfair, something that Cain's National Restaurant Association either chose to ignore or wanted to impose on women who had been harassed. During the court proceedings, George Friedman, a senior vice president of the American Arbitration Association, testified that "the system established by the Hooters rules so deviated from minimum due process standards that the Association would refuse to arbitrate under those rules." But Cain's group was backing them. Bottom line: The National Restaurant Association, with Cain as CEO, backed a sham system for evaluating sexual harassment claims. It was stacked against women.