Twin Peaks Managers Mandated Lingerie ‘Dress-Up Days,’ Federal Sexual Harassment Complaint Claims

By Jill Cowan The Dallas Morning News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In an EEOC complaint, one Twin Peaks server said that although she agreed to wear a work-provided uniform, a v-neck shirt, shorts, knee-high socks, and boots, about six months into her job, managers started imposing "dress-up days," that went far beyond what she signed up for.

The Dallas Morning News

Employees of the Dallas-based Twin Peaks restaurant chain, which describes itself as "the ultimate sports lodge," are alleging that they were sexually harassed and subjected to a hostile work environment when they were forced to wear skimpy costumes they had to pay for themselves and were ranked in a weekly report evaluating their bodies.

A Chicago attorney, Tamara Holder, said on Thursday that she has filed federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints on behalf of three workers at Illinois locations of the chain and a fourth former employee planned to sue for breach of contract.

"Twin Peaks' business model baits young women into wearing one uniform, then after they're hired, orders them to wear crop-tops, bikinis and lingerie," Holder said in a statement. "Many of the young women are still in high school, others are trying to pay college tuition."

Holder said in an interview that the harassment and toxic culture emanated from corporate leadership, not franchisees or individual managers.

As news spread among Twin Peaks employees about the Illinois complaints, which were filed in February, Holder said about 30 women have gotten in touch with her with their own stories. She said she's also heard from managers who didn't feel like they had any choice but to execute on inappropriate corporate directives.

"They're from all over the place, from Sacramento to Nashville," she said. "This is the policy and practice of corporate."

EEOC complaints are necessary precursors to lawsuits in such cases; the agency investigates and issues a "right to sue." Holder said she's seeking class status, which means that she'd be able to eventually file a complaint on behalf of a large group of current or former employees.

Holder provided one of the initial EEOC complaints, from a former Twin Peaks bartender in Orland Park, Illinois, named Sarah Blaylock, but the others were not made available.

As of 2016, Twin Peaks had almost 80 locations, a combination of corporate-owned and franchised. Holder said the Orland Park restaurant was a corporate-owned location.

A person who answered the phone at Twin Peaks headquarters said the company had no comments on "an open investigation," and would not answer questions about its corporate structure.

On its website, the Lewisville-born Hooters competitor, touts itself as a place where sports lovers can enjoy made-from-scratch comfort food and 29-degree beer from frozen mugs in a "polished" setting, as well as be served by so-called Twin Peaks Girls.

"This focus on quality and fun attracts the most talented and best-looking waitstaff in casual dining," the site says.

But in the EEOC complaint, Blaylock said that although she agreed to wear a work-provided uniform, a v-neck shirt, shorts, knee-high socks, and boots, about six months into her job, managers started imposing "dress-up days," that went far beyond what she signed up for. Women servers and bartenders were forced to don lingerie and bikinis they bought themselves in "the dead of winter," for a "Snow Bunny Week."

On the chain's official Facebook page, photos of women, apparently servers, advertise events like, "Sweetheart Week 2018," and a "Snow Bunnies Costume Party."

When Blaylock complained, she said in her EEOC claim, managers told her, "If you don't like it, you can leave."

Not only, the woman said, were the costumes uncomfortable, they attracted attention from local authorities. In February of last year, she said that Orland Park police officers visited her restaurant and wrote her a ticket for having exposed buttocks.

Managers told her, as well as other employees, that they'd take care of the tickets. Instead, an attorney hired by the restaurant acted on her behalf without notifying her about a 35-day right to appeal.

"As a result, this conviction is now permanently on my record," she said. "I am a nursing student and fear this will adversely affect my ability to get a job."

Photos of her in lingerie were posted on the restaurant's social media without her consent, but she feared retaliation if she objected, she said.

The woman also described an elaborate "Ranking Report," system in which women were graded based on their hair, makeup and bodies before every shift.

"The managers took picture of us, and degraded our appearance based on their subjective opinions of our stomachs, arms, legs and buttocks," the bartender wrote. "If we received a low grade, we were penalized and placed in a section with few customers."

Women employees were barred from eating during shifts and could only order free meals from a low-calorie, "spa menu," that wasn't available to customers. Their dressing room had no door and was under video surveillance.

In April of last year, Blaylock said in the complaint, she stopped coming into work.

"I could no longer handle the hostile and abusive work environment that caused me, and continues to cause me, extreme emotional distress," she said.

The complaints come as industries of all kinds reckon with the Me Too movement, which has inspired women around the world to speak up about everything from the kind of routine indignities their male counterparts don't face to outright assault in the workplace.

Women working in lower wage serving jobs are especially vulnerable to a kind of corrosive calculus: Endure abuse and make more tips, or complain and risk being fired.

Holder, whose own experience reporting to the company that a Fox News executive sexually assaulted actually ended in his firing, said the women coming forward about Twin Peaks are showing bravery and resolve.

She said she hopes that other women in the service industry will feel like they finally have a voice.

"I hope that this removes their fear," she said. "I understand what it's like to be afraid."

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