holding a work party at Hooters

A reader writes:

I’m wondering if you can settle a rather heated discussion between me and my boyfriend?

The background: A couple of years ago my friend was doing a post-degree certificate in HR through a reputable (but mid-sized local) community college. Just before the end of the fall semester, her fellow students decided to have a Christmas party and invited all the students in the cohort as well as all the professors and some admin staff to attend. The party was held at Hooters. I believe there were about 30 people in total, with about 10 professors/admin. Out of this group about three students (my friend included) voiced their reservations about having the party at Hooters, explaining they felt it was quite a sexualized environment and a poor choice of location for a group HR professionals. These students got a lot of criticism for voicing any concern and were forced into having conversations about why they felt uncomfortable. A lot of the return arguments were the typical “I don’t go for the girls, the food is really good,” “it’s a family restaurant,” “loosen up, it’s a fun atmosphere.” The three students (I think two female and one male) that were uncomfortable with the location did not make any traction in their argument and the party was ultimately held at Hooters, most of the professors/admin attended and none got involved in the discussion about the location choice. I think all three of the students that voiced concerns opted not to attend and were teased/called out about missing a great event and not being team players afterwards.

The heated discussion: I think this story is ludicrous (!) particularly because the professors and admin attended without questioning the location! It makes me wonder what the heck they were teaching in these HR classes?! I realize that a lot of people have no issue frequenting restaurants like Hooters, but I personally have a fairly strong reaction to the fact that this company makes money by exploiting young women’s bodies. I actively avoid companies that sexualize and objectify of women as I think this contributes to gender inequality issues in society. I would be more than uncomfortable attending a class party or a work party in this environment for a whole host of reasons. However, I think that outside of work people should do whatever the heck they want, and if that includes going to Hooters – then great, I just don’t want to be pressured into going with them or hear about it at the proverbial water cooler.

My (older) boyfriend however, is of a differing opinion. He previously worked marketing/sales and thinks as long as an activity isn’t illegal it’s fair game for the workplace. This includes getting wasted with clients/colleagues at bars, going to strip clubs etc. with colleagues/clients and that as long as you respect yourself the next day you are fine. He argues that in certain fields you need to have these kinds of bonding experiences to develop strong work/client relationships that bind when push comes to shove during a work situation. Obviously, in light of this he thinks it’s perfectly reasonable that the students and professors all went to Hooters. Further, he thinks it was silly that my friend and the other students made a fuss about the location. I think that this is an insensitive approach and that HR reps/companies should have more ethics than just “it was legal, so therefore ok.” I also think that this scenario was setting up these new HR professionals to be insensitive to gender equality issues and teaching them to ignore the nuances of sexualized work environments.

Can you settle this for us?! (I’m pretty sure you’ll side with me, but I just don’t have the right argument to sway the conversation in my favor and win him over to my side).

Also, just for the record, my boyfriend left marketing/sales because he didn’t like the environment and attitude he described above, but argues that just because it wasn’t for him that doesn’t make this enviroment wrong or unethical.


Yes, that’s outrageous.

It would be outrageous for any workplace or academic program to hold an event in a highly sexualized atmosphere like Hooters — where the whole point is to be served by scantily clad, sexualized employees — but it has a whole extra layer of WTF because this was an HR program.

HR! The very people who are supposed to be the most informed about and sensitive to issues of sexual harassment and hostile workplace.

For a college program that’s allegedly training people in HR, this goes beyond gross to being practically malpractice.

There was even a recent-ish sexual discrimination suit against Wal-Mart in part for requiring managers to attend meetings at Hooters (as well as strip clubs, among other problems), which went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As for your boyfriend’s contention that “as an activity isn’t illegal, it’s fair game for the workplace” — no. I mean, that’s just flatly wrong. Lots and lots of things are explicitly not acceptable in the workplace (or in life) even though they’re legal, such as pressuring coworkers for sex, sleeping with a subordinate, telling risque jokes, making racist comments, verbally abusing people, and loads more.

Our laws aren’t meant to address every possible thing someone could do wrong, or we’d be living far, far more circumscribed lives. And if we were supposed to look solely to the law to tell us what is and isn’t okay in our relations with others, we’d have huge problems.

There certainly are workplaces where people do get drunk with each other and go to strip clubs or go to places like Hooters. They’re the exception, though, not the norm. And they’re far from a generally accepted way to “bond” with coworkers and clients — and approaching them as a bonding experience is a good way to alienate plenty of colleagues. Does your boyfriend really think that going to a strip club is a good way to bond with most female colleagues? Or with the many men who aren’t into strip clubs and find them awkward at best? Or is he leaving women and progressively-minded men out of the equation altogether?

There are many, many fields (most, in fact) where people form relationships with coworkers and clients just fine without getting drunk or ogling scantily clad or naked people … and they’re generally more functional as a result and don’t end up alienating a bunch of their employees and clients.

{ 588 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    Wow. Maybe they should have invited the law students along to get a dose of reality.

    OF COURSE IT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA. It’s Hooters, FFS. There are plenty of family restaurants with good food that don’t feature scantily clad women.

    And on the off chance everyone WAS ok with it, at the first hint of “maybe this isn’t a good idea” or “I’m uncomfortable with this” they should have changed venue. The correct response is not “loosen up!”

    Terrible idea, terrible judgment. What on earth are they teaching people in this program?

    1. Green*

      Re “maybe they should have invited the law students along to get a dose of reality.”

      Nooooooope. Many law firms still do these kinds of things (after hours “bonding” or “client development” trips at gross places in Vegas). Firms think they’re exempt, and often are, because it’s career suicide for a lawyer to sue his/her firm, and you will more often than not a lawyer suing a firm will lose if you’re going up against a firm of thousands of lawyers, just based on resources available. This is mostly older partners setting the tone, and it’s not the prevailing culture, but it still unfortunately exists.

      However, not one of the employment lawyers would advise their clients to have parties at Hooters, unless the client is Hooters.

      1. sstabeler*

        I think that was supposed to be a joke based on the idea that a lawyer would set them straight on it being acceptable behavior for the workplace.

  2. Juli G.*

    Partially disagree here.

    Just going to Hooters or having an event there does not equal sexual harassment.

    I do think it’s inappropriate to blow off the concerns that people raised and the event should have been changed but the mere existence of breasts in a restaurant doesn’t constitute sexual harassment.

    1. UKAnon*

      I don’t think it’s sexual harassment as much as sexual discrimination. You have to seriously wonder what people who think this ok – especially in the face of dissent – think of women and, therefore, women in the workplace. Thus it becomes a workplace issue.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Exactly. The issue isn’t “the existence of breasts” (which is presumably the case at any restaurant that has female staff) but that Hooters is essentially a PG-rated strip bar, and looking at scantily dressed young women is part of the sell.

      2. OP*

        This was one of my big concerns! After that party, I’d forever wonder how my interactions as a woman in the workplace/class were valued.

      3. Sarah*

        Yes, this! Just because it’s not direct harassment, doesn’t mean it’s not a sexualised environment!

      4. Gnostradamus*

        Because they’re sexist. Simple as that.
        And the reason Walmart etc. would do it as policy or routine is precisely to root out dissenters, people from different backgrounds, with more progressive values.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      It contributes to a hostile environment against women, which IS harrassment. And the fact that people raised it as a concern and they still pressed forward – terrible management.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          No – this is common sense. You don’t have to wait for people to get offended to know better. If you have calendars up of scantily clad women, work outings to places like Hooters – you’re setting yourself up for a hostile workplace claim. It’s a bad idea regardless of whether or not anyone says anything.

          1. AW*

            You don’t have to wait for people to get offended to know better.

            That should be the title or subtitle of every anti-harassment training course ever.

        2. LBK*

          IIRC the standard is “that would offend a reasonable person,” whether or not anyone involved personally finds it offensive. Of course, if no one finds it offensive, it’s not likely any of them are going to report it, but it could still meet the legal standard to be considered harassment.

          1. Green*

            Something can contribute to a hostile environment *even if nobody voices their offense.* That’s included in many corporate HR training modules precisely because many people feel pressure not to voice their concern in the moment for fear of not being a “team player.” It can still show up in a lawsuit years later.

            1. sstabeler*

              I think that was LBK’s point, actually. Basically, you don’t have to accommodate the extremes of a religion, but if something is considered offensive to reasonable members of a religion, then it’s a good idea to do something about it (an example I can think of is that even moderate Muslims get offended by depictions of Mohammed, so it’s probably a good idea not to have any around the office.)

        3. neverjaunty*

          The “hostile environment” is not the restaurant. The “hostile environment” is the workplace. As Mike G. pointed out, a workplace can have a hostile work environment where women are routinely expected to put up with or bow out of sexualized environments oriented toward the men who work with and supervise them, and especially if they are cut out of “bonding” with clients, belittled, forced to explain their choices or derided as “team players” if they decline to attend.

        4. Bend & Snap*

          I have to give this a WOW. It’s not a stretch to think that some people would (rightfully) be offended by this.

          1. Sarah*

            Especially when people are being mocked for objecting, and mocked more for not then going.

        5. Observer*

          Except for two issues. One is that at least 3 people WERE quite clearly offended – so much so that they actually raised the issue. Secondly, and this is an issue that any competent HR person should be aware of, there is always a concern that people may feel enough pressure to conform that they won’t raise the issue. Now, it’s not possible to be a mind-reader, so you can’t always know if people are under pressure. But, when the venue is one that is so sexualized, it should be a no brainer to realize that there is a high chance that at least one or two people are going to uncomfortable.

          1. Green*

            +1. Even if someone laughs at your dirty jokes, it doesn’t mean they’re OK with it or that there’s no legal problem.

    3. jmkenrick*

      This alone isn’t sexual harassment, but I would imagine that, coupled with other incidents, this sort of event would bolster any sexual harassment claim.

    4. Artemesia*

      The place is named ‘hooters’ i.e. ‘titties’ — it isn’t about there being breasts, or even about the costumes, it is about marketing themselves as a sly tit bar for guys which automatically makes women uncomfortable and second class citizens.

        1. LBK*

          “In that case, you can all wear blindfolds. Better hold hands walking in so you don’t trip!”

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            Though honestly Playboy surprising has really great writing, but it’s not the main draw, obviously. For a porn magazine, one could do worst. It’s still a porn magazine, though.

                1. another IT manager*

                  Playboy used to publish a bunch of fiction/science fiction back in the day. Good stuff.

                  Doesn’t look like 451 was published there, but Bradbury sold at least four other stories to Playboy in the 50s and 60s.

            1. dawbs*

              Some of Roald Dahl’s best and more adult works were published there, as well as Sheil Silverstein’s
              The articles really *are* that good. (But I still don’t believe anyone subscribes just for them)

        2. neverjaunty*

          “And while I’m waiting for my wings to arrive, I read Playboy, but only for the articles!”

        3. Case of the Mondays*

          LOL – my now husband and I ended up at Hooters once truly for the food. We were traveling, famished and every restaurant in a 10 mile radius had a two hour wait. We really didn’t want to get fast food as we needed a break from driving. We ended up eating at Hooters which had no wait. We laugh to this day that we are probably the only people who ever honestly ended up at Hooters “for the food.”

          1. Person of Interest*

            A similar thing happened to my parents. Hooters had taken over the space of a restaurant they hadn’t been to in a while, so they didn’t know it had closed/changed. They didn’t feel like going somewhere else so they just went with it. We all had a good laugh about it – and they did enjoy the food!

          2. Rebecca*

            Haha, that happened to me, too! Flying from NYC to Dallas, I was supposed to connect in Memphis but that flight got canceled. So the airline put those of us who were stuck overnight up in a hotel. Literally the only restaurant open (this was about 11pm) was Hooters, so I went to Hooters for dinner with a bunch of strangers. I still remember the girl next to me saying, “This is my first charge on my corporate credit card and it’s going to be at Hooters.”

            Honestly, it was much less scandalous than I was expecting, but the food wasn’t that good either.

            Someone recently asked me if I’d ever been to Memphis and I said, “Yes, but I’ve only seen the airport, my hotel and Hooters.”

          3. Parenthetically*

            The VP of my very conservative Christian college once told the story in a class I was in of how he ended up at a Hooters with the president of the college while in a different city for a conference. They were so lost in conversation, heading for the “wing place” the person at the front desk had told them about, that it wasn’t until they had been seated and their waitress came over with menus did they notice where they were. The guy has a knack for storytelling, so he had the class rolling by the time he got to the part about how they looked DOWN at the menus, and then stopped themselves before they looked UP at the waitress. (They did not eat at Hooters that night.)

      1. Sunflower*

        ‘automatically makes women uncomfortable’ is a big assumption. I am a woman and have been to Hooters many times as well as strip clubs and have never felt uncomfortable or like a second class citizen. I agree with Juli that they should have moved the outing when people voiced concerns but please don’t assume all women feel that way about places like this. Also, let’s not forget that women are employed here and some of them(of course not all because no place is perfect) are very happy working there

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          No, but enough women *and* men feel uncomfortable about going there that it’s pretty shocking for HR professionals to plan for the even to be held there and then give people a hard time about now wanting to go. The fact that many people find those places offensive and are uncomfortable going to glorified strip clubs is not something that should need to be pointed out to HP professionals. It may not automatically make all women uncomfortable, but automatically makes enough people uncomfortable that this should be a no-brainer.

        2. Robles*

          I second this! I really dislike when people assume that feminist=opposed to stripping or sex work. I have no problem with Hooters in the least. I can agree it’s not the greatest venue for a work event, but this wasn’t a work event; it was a bunch of students deciding to get together and inviting a bunch of other people.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d like to see sex work legalized and don’t think that feminism needs to mean being opposed to porn or other adult entertainment … but as I said below, to me the issue with Hooters is that it wraps up adult entertainment and objectifying women in the guise of wholesome family activity, which has a really insidious impact. Strip clubs are far more honest about what they are, and I have no issue with them.

            1. AnonAcademic*

              AAM it is validating to hear another woman state that they have no issue with strip clubs (because it’s a transparent exchange) but take issue with Hooters, Twin Peaks, and other “strip club light” chains. At a minimum I think thewaitresses there deserve higher wages/ tips for putting up with the usual customer service industry challenges AND being oogled.

            2. Green*

              And even if you LIKE strip clubs, there is a difference between liking strip clubs on your own time and liking to hang out at strip clubs with your colleagues. You can’t assume that what someone likes, supports or enjoys doing in their spare time is also something they’d like/support/enjoy at work. I make jokes with my non-work-friends that would be extremely offensive if they came from colleagues.

              You can believe that sex work should be legalized and that adult entertainment is a healthy, fair exchange and still think it’s inappropriate (or be opposed to it) for a work event.

            3. Rose*

              This, this, all of this. Alison, I adore you.

              Also, I am very much a feminist, and I’ve been to strip clubs a few times. With gay friends, with lesbian friends, with my friend who was about to start stripping, and one just because I was curious (my first time).

              That doesn’t mean I would be even a little tiny bit ok with a coworker insisting I go to one.

            4. PlainJane*

              I agree on all counts, but as others have said, I don’t think it’s OK to have work events in places that make a significant chunk of the population uncomfortable. I’d add that some people would be unable to attend for religious reasons, making even more of a no-no for a work function.

            5. SleepyMel*

              There is something important about the establishment being honest and upfront about what it is, so people who wish to avoid it can avoid it. It’s the same reason that it’s so inappropriate to mandate an employee or student to have a meeting there. I think for a teacher and hr department of any kind professionally …the kind of message they are sending to young is sick and pathetic.

        3. Anonsie*

          I’d go to Hooters or a strip club on a regular day with my friends. In fact I would be pretty thrilled if I had more friends who were willing to do stuff like that because occasionally I think they’re fun.

          I would not be ok having to go to either for a work function, and I would double not be ok with having to go for a work function and then being belittled when I said I didn’t think that was a good idea.

          And sure, some women would be fine with that, too. Just because some people are ok with it doesn’t mean they should write off the concerns of everyone who isn’t.

          1. Rose*

            Totally agree! Let’s not all pretend that everything we do in our own free time is ok to do with coworkers…

        4. Artemesia*

          Hey if sexism doesn’t make you uncomfortable as a woman, go for it. I’ll admit to a fairly knee jerk reaction to things that are demeaning to women and think a workplace (and an HR program on top of that) that holds events at a place that is founded on sexual exploitation is fairly enraging.

        5. Annonymouse*

          But you’ve never been to those for a work event, been forced to explain AND defend why you find it an inappropriate venue for a work event then been teased for not going afterwards.

          The problem is less the “Hooters” but more the colleagues attitudes and what it says about how they see women.

          Add the fact these are HR in training – people who are actively studying these issues and it really is beyond ridiculous that this situation happened.

          And for the record I’m a feminist and have no problems with women being in control of their sexuality or sex in general. What I do object to is women being unnecessarily sexualised and objectified or those things dressed up as something else.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Exactly. My husband and I were joking around and came up with an imaginary bar that we named “Woodcock’s” (because we’re terrible people), in which the waiters are men dressed in Chippendale’s uniforms. I bet the men who don’t understand women’s discomfort with Hooters wouldn’t want to go there for anything.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          A restaurant named “Tallywackers” just opened up in Dallas. The male waitstaff’s shirts come off after 9:00 pm. It’s in a part of town known for its “gay” bars, though women are very much welcome. So far, my straight male friends who don’t understand why I’m uncomfortable with “breastaurants” are all gung-ho to try Tallywackers. I think it’s all about the power dynamics between a historically (and currently) oppressed segment of the population and a historically (and currently) dominant segment.

        2. Sarah*

          Yeah, exactly. There’s a restaurant near me that used to have nights where waiters wore short-shorts and bow ties – there’s pretty much no workplace on earth that would assume straight men would pick that for a bonding experience

        3. bridget*

          My favorite Amy Schumer sketch is where two women take their uncomfortable male co-worker to a Hooters-like bar called O’Nutters for lunch, where the male servers bulge out of high-school wrestling uniforms. They also serve only white wine (in pitchers) and have all the guys get up on the bar to dance and have champagne sprayed all over their nether-regions.

        4. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Now with the new Magic Mike movie being advertised on the TV, I want to rename Woodcock’s: Woodcock’s XXL.

    5. Erin*

      I agree with you.

      Those who raised concerns should *not* have been given crap for not going, and the fact that the whole group wasn’t comfortable with it probably should have prompted those in charge to choose a different restaurant.

      While I don’t think Hooters is a big deal, I also don’t think changing the restaurant to something everyone is comfortable with should have been a big deal, either.

      1. fposte*

        The being given crap part to me is even more WTF than the location. So you’re teaching HR, and when someone raises a discriminatory concern, what model are you offering in response?

        1. OP*

          I agree. But I’d like to clarify that the students were the ones planning the event- I think this would have been the perfect opportunity for the staff invited to turn this into a living HR lesson and model how to navigate a situation like this in the workplace. I wonder though if they were just like, “nah, don’t wanna get involved, and don’t want to be seen as a party pooper.”

          1. fposte*

            Which still makes them suck at HR. I accept that I misunderstood, but it’s not really a clarification that gets them off the hook, is it?

            1. OP*

              I totally agree! It doesn’t let them off the hook at all. Honestly, I’m shocked they didn’t use it as a learning opportunity.

          2. SleepyMel*

            I’m glad it wasn’t teachers though. Still icky and so inappropriate. I would have objected as well, immediately, probably by saying , “this is an event for all of us correct? Or is it boys night out or something?” to begin with …

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Also, it just seems unprofessional to have a work-related/professional event at. In fact, I would say the same thing about scheduling a party at a local dive known for low-cost drinks and a high-level of drunkenness. There is always one’s professional image to think about.

    6. SystemsLady*

      Well, it’s not always sexual harassment, but it certainly can be!

      A boss telling his or her subordinates to meet at Hooters and giving them no other choice? Absolutely inappropriate.

      A bunch of coworkers at the same level wanting to go to Hooters for a business or personal event and whining about the one coworker who says she doesn’t feel comfortable going? Also inappropriate.

      A bunch of coworkers at the same level unanimously deciding to go to Hooters as a more personal kind of thing? Sure, why not.

      The point is that pressuring people who don’t feel comfortable going to a sexually-themed restaurant IS sexual harassment, and because of that it’s almost universally not a place a boss (or in this case a teacher) should be scheduling an all-employee (or in this case class) event. It’s a classic HR nightmare and not something these young HR students should be learning to back up.

      1. Green*

        Eh, you can’t really assume it’s unanimous just because nobody speaks up. To be frank, even broaching the topic of whether we should all go to Hooters after work would be inappropriate.

        1. SleepyMel*

          Yeah I don’t think people should have to explain why looking at T & A with coworkers doesn’t sound like a fun time.

  3. neverjaunty*

    +10000 to AAM’s reply.

    OP, if your boyfriend really this clueless, or does he just really like going to strip bars and Hooters on the company dime because, seriously, “all the dudes wanted to go to Cheetah’s to bond and the ladies could either STFU or bow out and not be team players” is one of those classic scenarios that leads to big payouts in discrimination lawsuits.

    Also, let’s face it, anytime a workplace dynamic resembles the bad guys in the kind of movie you got shown in junior high about the dangers of drugs/smoking/alcohol, you know it’s BS, and that is exactly how these people wanting to go to Hooters sound, right down to their cheesy peer pressure nonsense.

    1. Connie-Lynne*

      Heh, funny that you picked the name Cheetah’s; Cheetah’s (in LA) was the first strip bar I ever went to! A whole bunch of us ladies had never been to a strip bar before and we got the guys to suggest a good “starter” place and we all went in a group of about 25 people, mixed men, women, and various sexual preferences. It turned out to be really fun as a friends-bonding experience. Cheetah’s is also where the “if you’re comfortable with strip bars, we’re ending the night meeting the guys at the strip bar” portion of my hen party went.

      But, see that “if you’re comfortable” part, LW’s friend’s BF? Even for a friends thing, some people are going to be uncomfortable in a highly sexualized environment, which Hooters totally is, otherwise they’d call it “Chicken Wings.” For a friends outing, it’s OK to say “if the place this is going to be held makes you uncomfortable because it upholds systemic societally-approved oppression, then you don’t have to go” but for work, that means you may be _cutting people out of important connection-making_ and that’s not right.

    2. Sarah*

      I am still gobsmacked by his response – I’ve managed to work in some really high pressure environments and bonded with colleagues, partners and clients without going to a strip club or getting wasted with them. I think Alison’s point about “what about bonding with women, or men who aren’t into that” (or gay men!) – does he just not have their back or go the extra mile for them, because he hasn’t seen them having a lapdance?

      1. Rose*

        Unless you are a drug dealer or a pimp, I really don’t think “bonding” at a strip club is ok. What about women or gay guys, or guys who feel weird about mixing work and naked ladies?? We’ll, I’m sure that’s kind of the point. Gotta keep that boys club atmosphere. No room for the gays or the weak!

  4. UKAnon*

    Um, yeah, this is bad HR people. Even if nobody had complained it would have been bad, but that fact that anyone – let alone three people – complained makes it Bad.

    In terms of your boyfriend, OP, I wonder if it would be more efficacious to explain it in terms of “offices should do something everyone is comfortable with regardless of who is uncomfortable or why” rather than focussing on the sexualized aspect, even though that is what makes this extra outrageous.

    (I also hope you don’t mind my saying, but you should also definitely educate your boyfriend about sexual discrimination,; in terms of winning this particular argument, though, the above might be more useful)

  5. Jeanne*

    I’m old enough to remember when this sort of thing was common. At one job, the higher-ups would spend lunch at a bar where the women were topless. The higher-ups were all men of course and it wasn’t questioned. It was legal I am sure. The thing is that we have worked to make better environments, where you don’t have to be a sexist man to be a leader. That is a good thing.

    There is and always has been some distinction between legal and moral. There are tons of legal things that are immoral. When at work, don’t just try for being within the law. Shoot for being a good, decent human being. Be kind, don’t discriminate, work together.

  6. anon for this*

    “HR! The very people who are supposed to be the most informed about and sensitive to issues of sexual harassment and hostile workplace.”

    I hope this isn’t too off topic, but I once was in a (large) meeting where the HR manager compared complaining about work conditions to “a woman sitting there crying because her husband beats her. She’s in that situation because she lets it happen.”

    So, unfortunately, I’m not too shocked at HR people totally lacking common decency. =(

    1. mess*

      In my experience the HR people are often the most inappropriate people in the company (the HR VP at my old company used to joke about how inappropriate people are in her field all the time!)

      1. fposte*

        I used to read the old About.com HR forums, and the HR guy who moderated and often answered was frequently deeply, wildly wrong.

      2. V.V.*

        Yeah its true, not every HR person can be the awesome Suzanne Lucas. She admits to being Evil, but cringes when HR is being grossly negligent and incompetently evil. I wonder if she will chime in on this one!

    2. phillist*

      I will see your horrible DV/HR story, and raise you one:

      One of my employees was in an abusive relationship. Her abuser found her at work, made his way to the break room and proceeded to start beating her right there. Two other staff members got between them, while my boss called 911 and I ran for security.

      Once the police were there, I ran to tell my HR person, who also happened to be the first person inside the admin offices. She looked at me, crossed her arms, shrugged and said, “That’s not our problem.”

      This was years ago and I’m still angry about it.

      1. sstabeler*

        yeah… not true, even ignoring the DV aspect. At a minimum, if someone is assaulting someone else on company property, it’s the company’s business.

  7. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    “Legal” equalling “okay for work” being a ridiculous assertion is like, the cornerstone of this blog. Yes, it’s legal to be a gigantic jerk to your employees or insist they address you are Your Majesty Horatio The Magnificent of Accounting, but it’s weird and beyond stupid.

    I am deeply unimpressed with the idea of “some industries are just like that” requiring massive benders or strip club experiences and the like. I don’t know how to even address this with someone who feels it’s OK because it’s legal other than to point out that legality is a weird way to live your life. Maybe you wear a Speedo to the grocery store and scream about conspiracy theories on the sidewalk and compulsively lie to everyone you meet and treat them like dirt–but hey, as long as you’re not selling meth to grade schoolers, you’re okay, because It’s Legal!

    1. alter_ego*

      My name is not Horatio, and I’m not an accountant, but oh boy do I want to start insisting that my coworkers call me that anyway.

    2. UKAnon*

      “insist they address you are Your Majesty Horatio The Magnificent of Accounting”

      I am neither an accountant nor a Horatio but I really want a situation to come up in life where I can do this.

        1. Claire (Scotland)*



    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      and not everything that is is illegal would be OK if there was no law against it, I mean murder is illegal but I’m pretty sure I don’t murder people because it is wrong not because it’s illegal.

    4. Kyrielle*

      Yeah, legal = okay for work just has me staring.

      Marijuana is legal in several states now. But I think most employers would not want employees smoking it at work.

      Open carry of a gun is legal many places, but again….

      Or for one that’s really not controversial at all: sitting around reading my favorite fiction book isn’t illegal, and I don’t think anyone should argue it would be. But as my job doesn’t involve fiction books in any way, doing so *at work* would not be appropriate in most cases! (I do not have the type of job where I am required to be a body in case a phone rings, for example, where I can see this possibly being fine.)

      For that matter, cross-country hikes are also legal – and you could even argue they’d make a great bonding experience. But that doesn’t mean that pushing them on a group, especially if any member of the group protests them for any reason, is a good thing to do.

      1. Kyrielle*

        WOULD argue it SHOULD be. I swear I can type. Also, I wonder what got that comment in moderation. The reference to marijuana?

      2. Observer*

        I don’t think the marijuana bit is all that controversial. It’s legal in some other countries, but I would be surprised if any employer in Holland, for instance, would be pleased if a worker actually showed up to work stoned.

        It’s also legal to be rude and obnoxious to your clients, but that will get you fired in most places. And, it’s also legal to be rude and obnoxious to your coworkers and even work superiors. But, that’s likely to get you fired in a lot of places too.

        1. Kyrielle*

          At least in the US, it’s still controversial whether marijuana or guns *should* be legal, in some circles. (Usually not the same circles.) Which is why I fell back on books and hikes to round it out, just in case. :)

          1. Observer*

            Yeah, it’s controversial if is should be legal. But, it’s never controversial to want your staff to show up to work sober. And, if your staff is operating heavy equipment, power tools or a vehicle, not even under the influence of medication that makes them drowsy.

      3. Sarah*

        Heh, what about not washing your clothes or your body for a month, or listening to loud music in an open plan office?

          1. Sarah*

            Eating stinky food in the office! Cutting your nails and scratching balls at the desk! Having a spittoon in the work kitchen! The list is endless!

            1. MJ*

              My grandfather was given a spitton when he started work in ~1930. It was issued to him along with other work supplies by his employer. Totally different time.

    5. Becky B*

      It’s definitely a very convenient line of “reasoning” to ensure you can keep doing what you want to do!

    6. Amber Rose*

      Must resist urge to change title…

      I wonder if it would be a socially acceptable April fool’s prank to change everyone’s title to something like that on our website listing.

      Probably not. :(

    7. Anonsie*

      Right. Whenever someone brings up either “it’s not illegal” or “it’s their right to do that” as a way to shut down a conversation about propriety, I like to remind them that I could also stand up and show them by bottom in that moment and it wouldn’t be illegal but they would probably agree that I shouldn’t do that.

  8. Brett*

    This is probably my Mormon upbringing or maybe my work in government…

    But I have always felt that any venue that has a bar area should be absolutely out of the question for any business related event. This pretty much rules out every sexualized business (well, except for some really obvious ones like juice bars and adult bookstores).

      1. Rana*

        I can only imagine it if one’s company was in that area of publishing. Otherwise, no.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agreed. When Hooters came into my area, they had to agree to no wet t-shirt contests or other racy activities, and they had alternative uniforms that cover more. Frankly, the Hooters team looks more appropriate that the privately owned bar waitresses who work next door. They have backless tops and bikini bottoms. Eesh.
      Just stay away from the bar scene for these events. Even an Applebee’s waitress can be inappropriate.

      1. VintageLydia USA*

        I didn’t realize tee shirts or polos were so scandalous, unless the atmosphere at your Applebee’s is much different than the one in my neighborhood…

    2. Calacademic*

      That rule is probably overly broad; it rules out places like Chili’s and Applebee’s which are probably otherwise reasonable places to eat. Olive Garden also has a bar area, but I don’t think it sexualizes its wait staff.

      1. Brett*

        I honestly think Chili’s, Applebees, Buffalo Wild Wings, TGI Friday’s, etc are inappropriate places for work related events.
        It might seem like every restaurant has a bar, but once you start looking you realize that many do not have them (they might still serve alcohol, but do not have a bar area).

        1. LBK*

          How are those inappropriate for work-related events!? I can’t even fathom a guess there. Too casual?

          1. LBK*

            And even going by restaurants that have a bar area rather than just serving alcohol, I can’t think of many. Even some of the ritzier, most expensive restaurants in my city have bars you can sit at.

          2. Brett*

            Drinking is strongly a part of the dining experience at those restaurants (at least in our area). You go to those for the alcohol, not the food.

            1. A Teacher*

              I eat at chilis and Applebee’s all the time and very rarely get a drink there actually.

            2. Hlyssande*

              My experience is the same as A Teacher. I eat frequently at TGIF and very rarely get any alcohol.

              Honestly, if I’m going to order drinks at a place, I’m going to go somewhere that doesn’t ridiculously overcharge me. Or is one of the local spots I like to support.

              TGIF, Applebees, Chilis, etc.. they are restaurants with attached bars, not bars that serve food.

            3. Anonsie*

              Well, that’s probably because the food is terrible.

              Jokes aside though I think I may have one time seen people actually order drinks at one of those chains. I think their main audience is groups of people who need to go somewhere everyone can find something to eat easily and that also isn’t expensive.

              And jokes back in, I’m reminded of the American Dad where Roger tells Stan he’s found the diviest, most rock-bottom bar in the world and he says the people there all have no hope left. “It’s like Applebees, if Applebees had a bar! Wait Applebees does have a bar. It’s like Applebees.”

            4. Pennalynn Lott*

              I’m thinking that’s got to be a regional thing for you, Brett. Are you in Utah? Because here in Dallas you’d have to work really hard to find a restaurant that doesn’t have a bar. I can only think of two, and it’s because they didn’t want to go through the expense of getting a liquor license. Even so, they’re BYOB establishments and every time I’ve gone to either one, there are lots of people drinking alcohol.

        2. Not Today Satan*

          How does that make a difference? I’ve never gone to dinner at a restaurant and seen anyone get up from the table to get get a drink from the bar.

          And at those places the bars seem to only be used for happy hour or people eating dinner alone–not really a hotbed of sin.

        3. Oryx*

          We had our Christmas party at a local Chili’s/Applebees/etc. type place with drink tickets provided to utilize the bar. It was awesome.

          I, too, am curious why you find such establishments inappropriate places for work functions.

        4. Elysian*

          This might be a regional thing? Even my local chinese food place has a “bar” area. The only places I’m coming up with that don’t have any kind of “bar” area are fast food/fast casual places (Chipotle, Sweetgreen, etc.)

          1. esra*

            I was wondering if this is a location thing. Outside of the odd breakfast joint/diner, you’re not likely to find a restaurant without a bar area where I live.

            As an aside, is Hooters food even that good? Here’s my food snobbery coming through, but there must be better options.

            1. Elysian*

              Mine, too! But there’s no actual bar area, so you still get them from the counter.

        5. Lucky*

          This may be true in Utah and in the bible belt, but not in Seattle or any large West Coast city where I’ve lived/worked. Even fine dining houses and small bistros have a bar area with counter seating and a wall of liquor. The only places where you won’t find a bar are cafes and diners.

          1. Sunflower*

            Yup I’m in the northeast and the only places without bars are fast casual places like panera or restaurants that are clearly nice BYOB’s

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Maybe in Utah. I live in the Bible Belt and the chain restaurants here sell alcohol. There are places you can go that don’t, but the majority of sit-down restaurants have it on the menu.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yeah, I think this is specific to Utah. I went to an Applebee’s there once, and it was built on the same template as all the other ones (giant bar in the middle), but it was empty and only used as a humongous wait station.

          3. Ad Astra*

            Since Mormons are one of those groups that tend to cluster in certain geographic areas, I’m wondering if maybe Brett lives in a heavily Mormon area where casual dining chains that might have a bar area in other regions have chosen to forgo the bar. It might not make business sense to dedicate square footage to a bar section when an unusually high number of customers are just coming in for a lemonade or whatever. So that could mean this area has far more bar-free options than the cities many of us live in.


            1. Brett*

              It’s Missouri, where the alcohol licensing is very different if you have bar seating versus only serving alcohol (and different still if you only serve beer and wine).
              I forget the ratios involved, but basically it only makes sense to have bar seating if your alcohol sales are a certain ratio above your food sales.

              1. Ad Astra*

                Oh yes, Missouri is not one of the states I imagined you might live in. Shows what I know. In my experience, alcohol and fireworks are just about everywhere in Missouri.

                My vote would be for pizza, barbecue, or Ruby Tuesday.

              2. Anonsie*

                Ahhh that makes sense. In many cities it’s the exact opposite– bars are extremely common and a huge proportion of the restaurants will have them even if they’re tiny and sad and never get used.

              3. Lucky*

                Yeah, Washington used to have weird paternalistic alcohol laws, borrowed from British Columbia – bars that were licensed for hard liquor had separate entrances for “men” and “ladies & escorts” because women couldn’t go to bar without a male escort. By the 1990s, a hard liquor license required that a high percentage of sales be from food, so most restaurants were licensed and bars were primarily taverns. We’ve loosened up the liquor laws since then and now we’re just booze and weed emporium.

          4. JB (not in Houston)*

            It’s not true in the Bible Belt, either. I grew up there and most restaurants have a bar area.

          5. Connie-Lynne*

            And even then, cafes and diners frequently still have beer/wine licenses.

            My brother once teased me after visiting me in the Bay Area, “Connie, every restaurant you took us to is a cocktail bar!” No, it’s just that San Francisco is full of fancy cocktails.

        6. Juli G.*

          I think this may be a geographic issue. I’m assuming you live in a heavy Mormon area from the juice bar explanation. There might be lots of options. I live in the Midwest – if you don’t serve meat and beer, you won’t make it 6 months in the restaurant business.

        7. Ad Astra*

          Serious question, then: What would be your go-to chain restaurant for work events? I’m trying to think of some that don’t have bar areas, but I keep moving to cities where I don’t know anyone, so the bar areas are the only thing I look for.

        8. Mike C.*

          Why do you believe it’s inappropriate for work to be in a restaurant that serves alcohol in a separate bar area?

          I mean really, this sounds incredibly arbitrary.

        9. Laurel Gray*

          This must be regional. All of the restaurants in my area have a bar if they have a full liquor license. The ones who can only serve beer and wine still do have a bar area.

        10. nona*

          Huh? Do most of these places not have a bar where you live?

          I’m in a pretty conservative area, but “no bar” really rules out a lot of restaurants.

        11. Helka*

          Every time I’ve been to TGI Friday’s, it’s been deafeningly loud and my friends and I have had to shout conversations at each other because the bar is so raucous.

          So yeah, I wouldn’t hold a work event there, because that’s not a good atmosphere for one.

        12. Sarah*

          I haven’t been to TGI in over 10 years, but thinking about the forced jollity and over-familiar wait staff etc, YES VETO THEM NOW!!!

      1. Juli G.*

        I’m pretty confused as well- is that an autocorrect, sarcasm, or an experience that doesn’t match mine?

        1. Ad Astra*

          In some states, “juice bars” are strip clubs that serve juice and soda instead of alcohol. Usually it’s because the state laws have some restrictions about alcohol and nudity in the same venue. Sometimes strip clubs can’t serve alcohol at all. Other times, they choose not to serve alcohol so that their strippers can legally get all the way nude, whereas clubs that serve alcohol have limits on what they can show on stage.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            I used to live in a town with an alcohol free strip bar. It was the saddest place I’ve ever seen (from the outside).

            Maine used to have a topless donut shop but it burned down. I think it was in Portland? Don’t know if it was rebuilt.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              So, the rural topless donut shop burned down but there the regular strip club in Portland still has a 24 hour drive thru donut/coffee shop that is topless. There aren’t very many 24 hour venues in Maine so I hear some regular folk go to the drive thru just for the coffee.

            2. Dana*

              We have the no alcohol/fully nude strip clubs around here and as college kids who couldn’t legally drink anyway, we just brought our own. You didn’t even have to hide the flask–nobody cared.

      2. Brett*

        What Ad Astra said. A juice bar is a strip club that does not have a liquor license, common in states where nudity is not allowed in liquor licensed establishments.

          1. Bekx*

            Haaaa!! I used to work at JJ.

            “What kind of….boost….would you like in your Strawberry Surf RIDER?”

          2. HB*

            I was seriously imagining Jamba Juice employees in Hooters-esque shirts and was VERY confused.

          3. Anonsie*

            There are actually chains of sexy drive-through coffee stands around here which is just about the silliest thing I can imagine. You can’t even see a whole person through the window so it’s basically just that you can peek at some cleavage as the woman working there hands your drink out.

      1. LBK*

        Seriously – where would you even eat then? I can’t think of a single sit-down restaurant near my office that doesn’t serve alcohol.

      2. Bekx*

        Steak n shake too! At least that’s 24/7 and they have half priced milkshakes starting at 2

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I get what you’re saying, but I think this would be near impossible in most places. I’ve been to many a work lunch and dinner in restaurants that serve alcohol– nothing nefarious or even mildly untoward occurred. Heck, I’ve been to many a work lunch and dinner where alcohol was served and people didn’t get crazy. The presence of a bar is a red herring, in my opinion– it’s the tone set by higher-ups that has the biggest effect on whether people get trashed/raunchy at work events.

    4. BRR*

      But so many restaurant have a bar area. While I think Hooters is a poor choice I get a couple of team appreciation lunches a year at restaurants. I think every nicer restaurant has a bar area and I would much prefer going somewhere at this level than fast food or fast casual.

    5. Ad Astra*

      I think restaurants with bars are fine (particularly in the industries I’ve worked in), but there’s no harm in erring on the conservative side here. Especially if someone in the group is uncomfortable.

        1. SystemsLady*

          Yeah, going to a restaurant that happens to have alcohol or a bar somewhere in the restaurant is in no way pressuring people in the group to drink.

          Our company rules prohibit drinking during lunch, so when we go to Applebee’s…nobody drinks. It’s that easy. (Of course, Applebee’s is one of only a few sitdown restaurants in the town our office is in)

          Going to a bar, maybe, but I’ve been in small towns where a restaurant that was mostly a bar was the only sitdown option for lunch. And dinner.

        2. fposte*

          Agreed. In most places, it’s hugely limiting to restrict yourself only to places with no liquor license.

    6. cv*

      That seems a little restrictive to me. There are plenty of hotel restaurants or upscale restaurants that have bar areas and would be perfectly appropriate for a business dinner. Sitting at the bar for a few minutes while waiting for a table wouldn’t be a big deal, and good colleagues wouldn’t blink at someone only ordering water or soda. But that’s a pretty different environment than Hooters or someplace that’s more about the alcohol than the food.

    7. Artemesia*

      Since when is drinking alcohol taboo for a work outing (except of course a Mormon or similar work outing?) Most restaurants serve alcohol; one need not partake and getting drunk is probably a bad idea for any work related thing — but having a drink or eating in a place where someone else is having a drink? I don’t see any comparison to hooters here.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I wouldn’t do it if I drove myself to the lunch. In fact, since I’m alone and have no one to drive with usually, I rarely drink at all ever even when going out with friends. I’d probably have a glass of wine with my meal if we had decent public transport.

        1. Artemesia*

          I wouldn’t drink at lunch or if driving either — I am a cheap drunk and a stiff drink at lunch would make me less than productive after that — but having lunch where someone else is having a beer doesn’t seem like a big deal — entirely different than a place that is selling sexism.

    8. Gwen*

      On the other side of the coin, based on my location and industry I’m having a hard time imagining anyone showing up for a business event that DOESN’T have a bar.

    9. some1*

      I think that’s the Mormon upbringing. Drinking at work events isn’t inherently inappropriate.

      That being said, if one of my coworkers chose to opt out because they were uncomfortable around alcohol, I wouldn’t hold it against them.

      1. Brett*

        It might be the job actually. Drinking at work events is absolutely inappropriate for us and can easily get your disciplined. There is pretty much zero chance of getting away with it as well, since members of the public will definitely report you.
        (We are supposed to wear our government uniforms at work related events.)

        1. cuppa*

          We aren’t that strict, but we are very much no alcohol during work. However, I don’t think anyone would blink an eye at going to a sit-down restaurant with a bar (No Hooters, obviously, but Red Lobster or Chili’s would be fine) as long as no alcohol was consumed. I think most places see that a lot during the lunch hour, anyway.

        2. Kelly L.*

          So would a place with alcohol be a problem even if none of the work people drank any?

          1. Brett*

            It is not really whether or not anyone drank, but whether or not a member of the public said we drank. Going some place without alcohol makes it easy to defend yourself against an accusation that you were drinking in uniform/on duty.

            1. Juli G.*

              Ew… I feel like that’s a sad policy. “Don’t go where there’s liquor because we believe Joe Public over employees.”

            2. phillist*

              Eh. I was in EMS for a while–an industry where drinking alcohol on duty is a HUGE liability and public safety issue, as well as actually actionable outside the context of the workplace if it happens. We frequently (and all of my EMS friends still do) went to restaurants that had bars. One of our favorite haunts was a “Sports Bar/Grill” type of place. I think that would laugh hysterically if someone told them they couldn’t even be in proximity to alcohol in uniform.

      2. Allison*

        Nor would I, I can think of a few totally legit reasons why someone would feel uncomfortable at an event where alcohol is being served.

        1. Juli G.*

          But if you’re uncomfortable with it being served in the same building as you, I believe that you’re an outlier and you need to probably excuse yourself.

    10. Mike C.*

      There are tons of perfectly acceptable restaurants that have a separate bar area or named room. I think you’re really going overboard here.

    11. Charlotte Lucas*

      I think you’d be stuck meeting at a fast food restaurant or coffee shop if you only went places without a bar in my city. But, our university sells alcohol in the student union, so that’s a culture thing here. However, there’s a big difference between places, and some of the bars would not be at all appropriate for a work outing, and some would be a lovely treat with excellent food.

    12. Brett*

      Well, I took a look at our approved restaurant list that we maintain for when we host classes here.

      The list has 5 Chinese restaurants, 3 coffee shops, 1 “sports bar” (the bar and restaurant are in separate store fronts), 2 family pizza restaurants, 3 barbecues joints, a Bob Evans, a Cracker Barrel, a Ruby Tuesday (no bar), and 16 fast food places.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I would think any town big enough to support a college or university would have at least one other venue more appropriate than Hooter’s.

        1. Brett*

          This list is just within 2 miles. Though, I think I counted around 120 total restaurants in that radius (we are next to several major arterials, including two versions of old route 66).

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Sorry – I was referring to the OP’s letter. I would think they could easily find a more appropriate venue if they’re in a college town.

            Where I live, it’s very common (and legal) for people to bring children into bars that also serve food. (This is during the day and early evening.) No one blinks an eye, as these are seen as community gathering places, so that part is a culture thing. However, people would still look askance at a group that was professionally related and going somewhere like Hooter’s. (Not just for obvious reasons, but also because my town is known for great local food – why go to a chain?)

            1. OP*

              Interestingly, size of restaurants was one of the return arguments I forgot about until you mentioned it! While there were many other venue options to choose from, apprently Hooters was one of the few that were large enough to house such a large group. I’m not sure I buy that argument … but it did come up.

    13. Ineloquent*

      It may just be you. I’m born and raised Mormon (and I’m active), and I’m booking a restaurant for a team dinner next week which I chose in part because they’ll have half price bottles of wine that night. Alclohol =/ inappropriate work behavior for most people.

    14. bridget*

      I think this has to be specific to MO liquor laws. At my place of employment in Happy Valley Utah, which is owned by and populated almost entirely by staunch, lifelong, never-touched-a-drop Mormons, we had a holiday party at a local restaurant with a bar. Because of company culture there was none served, and it would have been very very weird for anyone to step over to the bar to purchase a drink for themselves, but the bar in and of itself wasn’t an issue.

      1. Snargulfuss*

        Yeah Brett I think this may have more to do with the culture of your workplace than your Mormon upbringing. I’m active LDS and wouldn’t bat an eye at going to a restaurant with a bar.

    15. AnonAcademic*

      Yes, I think it’s your Mormon upbringing and government work. The standards for drinking alcohol at work events are highly industry specific. In my field (academia/science) there is a big drinking culture. I have fond memories of inebriated karaoke with several pretty famous researchers at one conference mixer, or the time our big conference was in NOLA and there were tens of thousands of tipsy scientists roaming the city (the overheard bar conversations were pretty great at that one). My understanding is that law is similar in that the bar is where you network/celebrate. Finance (at least in NYC) is also very alcohol oriented, every company party my partner ever attended was somewhere like a steak house where many bottles of scotch were consumed.

    16. Rose*

      Wait why are juice bars sexual???? Is there something I don’t know about my smoothie place?

      This is not being sarcastic I really feel like I’m missing something important here.

  9. Jubilance*

    Now I feel bad – I once had a birthday lunch with my teammates from my first job at Hooters. In my defense, the wings are really good!

        1. Bekx*

          I seriously haven’t had one that comes close to them. Texas Roadhouse might be the closest….but I like chips and I like when they don’t fall apart on me and it seems impossible to find ones as good! Unfortunately there isn’t a Hooters close to me, so I only get it when I am in Orlando which is maybe once every few years.

    1. Karyn*

      Believe it or not, my friend’s boyfriend and his best friend stayed at the Hooters hotel in Vegas while we were staying at the MGM Signature… and when we went over there, we were STUNNED at how nice it was!

        1. Karyn*

          I mean, it’s not super high end luxury, but we were expecting… well, you know, kind of a crappy, dingy place but it was kind of island themed and fun!

      1. Victoria, Please*

        Oh my gosh, *I* stayed in the Hooters hotel in Vegas once. It was pretty nice, yes! …for a Vegas hotel; Vegas is possibly my least favorite place on earth and I was a miserable pill the entire time but my young nephew was lovin’ life in the Hooters hotel.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      So, my Dad – who watches PBS and listens to Prairie Home Companion religiously and really doesn’t get out much – once suggested we go out to dinner at Hooters when I was around 10. I was SHOCKED and outraged and told him absolutely not and he was super confused. He’d only suggested it because I love chicken wings and he heard the guys at work talking about it and having good wings. He had NO idea it was a breastaurant. Oh, Dad.

            1. Lefty*

              No more quacking… just “who whoing” down the halls! Ah, the stuff of nightmares.

            2. Lefty*

              Could be! No more quacking, just “who whooing” down the halls. That is the stuff of nightmares.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I’ve heard the Tilted Kilt is (was? it closed pretty quickly in my town) worse. Also, according to a comparison of chains I read, it’s not a clean restaurant. (As in, the floor and tables are dirty…)

              1. Anonsie*

                At one point not long ago, at the big intersection near my mother’s house there was a Hooters on one corner, a Tilted Kilt on another, and a Twin Peaks on a third. Slightly off the last corner was a regular strip club. This is in the middle of an otherwise very benign burb so I have no idea how that happened. Like, there are big craft stores and stuff like Big Lots all around them, so I can’t imagine the people normally moving through there are the target audience of girlie restaurants.

                Anyway, the only thing anyone was ever offended by about this arrangement (that I ever heard anyway) was that the Tilted Kilt was gross and sheisty by comparison to the other three. It shut down pretty quickly as well,the other three are still there. Now I’m really curious as to what’s wrong with the whole company.

              2. Dana*

                We just went to the new local Tilted Kilt and as far as the waitstaff, the girls were more scantily clad than at Hooters. The food was not very good, but I was never that impressed with Hooters food either.

      1. Anonsie*

        Many years ago when I was a student I dated a guy who was from Mexico, and his dad still lived there. Periodically he would pack up the whole family (remarried with some other kids much younger than my ex) and come visit his son in the states for a weekend or something. One time after he visited, my ex came over all flustered because his dad had picked him up and attempted to take everyone to Hooters for dinner. My ex assumed his dad had no idea what Hooters was and explained to him that it wasn’t really appropriate for him to take the little kids in there and all.

        Turned out dad was super familiar with Hooters and they often ate there when driving up to visit him because they’re all along the interstate. Dad had no idea it was an intentionally sexy establishment because, according to him, American women always dress like that and he didn’t see anything unusual about the whole thing.

        1. Rose*

          Off track but my dad (who is 60) asked me what the hell a Kardashian was the other day.

    3. NickelandDime*

      The wings are good at Hooters. We went as a family one day and everyone liked the food except my daughter. She said repeatedly, “I don’t like Hooties.” LOL.

      That being said, what the OP described in this letter is less than professional, and they could have selected another restaurant.

    4. Ezri*

      I like Hooters too, as a woman. But like many places people go on their personal time, it’s not appropriate for a work event.

      1. LBK*

        I also think it’s fine to enjoy it if you’re genuinely not interested in the sexual aspect of it, but I don’t believe for a second that the people who chose it for a work event weren’t interested – otherwise there wouldn’t have been so much pushback on trying to suggest another venue. Even “we really want good wings” would be an unreasonable explanation for being inflexible about restaurant choice if someone objected, whether it was at Hooters or anywhere else.

    5. Karen*

      But the key here is that it was a casual work outing for a birthday, and it probably wasn’t mandatory. While I wouldn’t choose Hooters as a place to have lunch with friends, I don’t see anything wrong with my co-workers going there voluntarily.

      Plus, I’m assuming you and your teammates didn’t pressure people to go and there probably weren’t consequences for those who didn’t…

  10. Allison*

    All aboard the NOPE train!

    I would seriously question the judgment of anyone who thinks Hooters is a good place for a formal work outing. I don’t mean a “let’s get drinks tonight” outing, but a planned team event. If I ever worked on a team that did this, I’d start looking for another job immediately.

    “These students got a lot of criticism for voicing any concern and were forced into having conversations about why they felt uncomfortable”

    I just . . . Are you kidding me?

    Gotta love the “it’s just a fun place with good wings” defense, where do you live where Hooters is the only fun place to go? Anyone who says they go for anything other than the scantily clad women is either lying or in deep, *deep* denial.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, the criticism pushed it over the edge for me. There is NO way that would have happened unless somebody was getting very defensive about their choice.

  11. grasshopper*

    There might not be anything wrong with a group deciding to have an outing to Hooters. However, the fact that this is an HR class, who are supposed to be attuned to any possibility of liability, strikes me as being particularly tone deaf especially after several people brought up the fact that it made them uncomfortable. I certainly wouldn’t want to work with any of the grads of that HR class if they have a teasing or brush it off attitude when people bring issues forward.

    1. Partly Cloudy*

      What grasshopper said.

      At my old job, our annual fantasy football drafts were always held at Hooters. It was a mixed group of men and women, technically not a company event, and definitely not mandatory.

      The combination of “HR class” and “people complained” in the OP’s letter is what makes it bad.

      1. Elysian*

        I disagree – even though fantasy football wasn’t mandatory, I wouldn’t want to play if the draft were at Hooters (honestly, I don’t want to play either way, but you get what I mean). You’re excluding people – or making them uncomfortable – at an event that is ostensibly about coworker bonding and fun. Just because some women go doesn’t mean all women are ok with it. Just because men stereo-typically like women’s breasts doesn’t mean that all men are ok with that behavior. I think having the fantasy football draft at Hooters was a poor choice (though, on the ladder of offenses, several rungs down from the HR class going there for their event).

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          By “not mandatory” I meant that attending the draft party was optional – the draft itself is online so some people did it remotely. All the women involved, at least at the time, were fine with it – I was one of them. Granted, it’s not the wisest choice of venue for any work-related function, but for me personally, it was barely a blip on the radar.

          I wonder what the general reaction would be if a group of sex workers wanted to have a company event in a place like Hooters, which is arguably tamer than their place of business…?

      2. Elysian*

        Also, I don’t think that people should have to complain for others to realize that this was a bad idea. The fact that they DID express concern makes it worse, but honestly I think this is a no-brainer. I was once taken to a work-related lunch at a place very similar to Hooters, and it was the most uncomfortable 1.5 hours of my life. I didn’t know when the restaurant was suggested that this was their theme, but once I got in there, Oh God. Because of the power dynamic in the business relationship, I couldn’t suggest another place, especially not once we were in the door. It was horrifying for me. Just because I didn’t complain doesn’t mean it was ok – the person picking the place just should have known that was inappropriate for a business lunch.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is a really important point. Not everyone is going to feel comfortable speaking up, for some it will be too late by the time they realize they need to, and even the act of suggesting going there says “we have no issue with objectifying women in a work setting,” which is a big problem on its own.

        2. Ad Astra*

          One of my favorite posts on this blog was something along the line of “Just because no one’s complained doesn’t mean what you’re doing is OK.” Words to live by when it comes to work situations.

      3. MashaKasha*

        Yes, and this raised a ton of red flags with me as well: “I think all three of the students that voiced concerns opted not to attend and were teased/called out about missing a great event and not being team players afterwards.”

        I do not want to support Hooters with my money for the exact reasons OP mentions. I don’t want to ever run into someone in an HR department at my work who’d believe this would make me “not a team player”.

        1. cuppa*

          I’d also be concerned about what this is reinforcing. This would be an absolute no-no in so many places, and to basically justify it to students/interns seems like a bad idea. I could see them scheduling something like this somewhere else and being surprised at the pushback because they thought it was ok.

  12. Karyn*

    I refer to President Bartlet with regard to your boyfriend:


    That is all.

    1. neverjaunty*

      I got one of my kids this on a T-shirt. It is probably her favorite item of clothing.

        1. neverjaunty*

          I don’t remember but it *might* have been Look Human? (which also makes hilarious work-out gear)

  13. KJones*

    The fact that something similar happened on The Office (Michael drags Jim to Hooters; Michael has the casino event catered by Hooters, etc) seems like a pretty good indication that most people would consider this not OK. It sounds like they were following Michael Scott.

      1. Karyn*

        Every time someone wants to do something at an office, they should think about what Michael Scott would do… and then do the opposite of that.

        1. Kate M*

          Why are you the way that you are? Honestly, every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way. I hate so much about the things that you choose to be.

  14. Ad Astra*

    I like Hooters wings just fine, but the environment is sexualized, and that’s not an appropriate place for work events, especially for HR professionals. I have been to small towns where the local “breastaurant” is the only sports bar/casual dining restaurant in the area, so people hold events there even when it’s not totally appropriate because there aren’t many better choices. But Hooters, specifically, only exists in bigger cities, where you’d have tons of better choices: Buffalo Wild Wings, Red Robin, Ruby Tuesday, TGI Friday’s… no excuse for picking Hooters.

    Side note: If you think Hooters has a gross, sexualized environment, check out Twin Peaks. The website uses terms like “man cave,” and on the menu the sandwiches are “well built,” the entrees are “smokin’ hot,” and the desserts are “sweet things.” The waitresses show even more skin than Hooters waitresses, and the drinks come in “girl sized” or “man sized.” I’ve heard the food is ok.

    1. MegEB*

      The girl-sized/man-sized drink names would drive me bonkers. I’m perfectly capable of drinking as much beer as any man despite my delicate lady parts, thank you.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, really. Asking for a pint of Guinness stout shuts a lot of people up, LOL. And then there are those who gasp and say, “Are you really gonna drink that?”

        1. Ad Astra*

          And Guinness isn’t even that “stout” of a stout! The pearl-clutching when a woman orders beer instead of wine or a cocktail is so silly. It’s 2015 and I just don’t like wine.

          1. Artemesia*

            I lived my career in the US south and it was common at social events for the men to be served beer and the women to be drinking soft drinks or iced tea. I don’t like beer, so it was fine for me, but lots of women found it very odd. It was as if it were sinful for a woman to do something manly like drink a beer. So very odd.

            1. Anonsie*

              This is extra-extra odd to me because I’m also a southerner and where I’m from, if you’re serving beers and you skip someone that would be a major snub regardless of gender. Beer drinkin is your god given right

      2. bridget*

        Not to mention the totally obnoxious implication that any dude who doesn’t choose to drink like a fish (for whatever reason) is a mockable sissy/pansy (with its own obnoxious implication that being compared to a woman is the ultimate male insult).

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      I think the women at Bone Daddy’s are even more scantily clad than Twin Peaks and they wear Mary Jane shoes with frilly socks (like a young girl would be dressed) to add that little touch to the fantasy. I only know because I wandered in without knowing it was a breastaurant, but their hamburger is out of this world . But as Ad Astra suggested below, perhaps I’ll just get take-out from now on.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        That adds an extra-creepy dimension. Like the ads for American Apparel. I’ll buy my sweatshop-free t-shirts without extremely young-looking scantily clad women advertising them, thank you very much…

    3. SystemsLady*

      Ugh, Twin Peaks. They run ads on Pandora telling us womenfolk what great ~friends~ and great tips we can make by working there!

    4. Paige Turner*

      At first I thought you were talking about the show Twin Peaks (I’ve never heard of the restaurant), and now I’m disappointed and I want a donut.

    5. Melissa*

      I checked it out, and they advertise themselves with “eats. drinks. scenic views.” Ew.

      Also, how do they get around employment discrimination laws? Their waitresses are clearly all women but even more than that, photographic evidence shows that they all have very similar looks (even across racial/ethnic groups) and they all wear their hair the same way.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Legally, they’ve claimed that they’re exempt from sex discrimination laws because they are an “adult entertainment venue,” not a restaurant and so hiring only women (and only women with a certain look) is a bona fide occupational qualification. In other words, what strip clubs do.

        Then they turn around and claim they’re a family restaurant. It’s gross.

        1. Kiki*

          Reading all these comments, I keep picturing the outfit Sookie has to wear at Merlotte’s. Not sure why…

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’d be fine with it if they didn’t make that claim. I wouldn’t for one minute think Chippendale’s is a family venue either. It is what it is. As Judge Judy says, don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

        3. Dana*

          When the new Tilted Kilt opened they were hiring “Entertainers” in their ads and told you to get all “gussied up” and come to an “audition”. I’ve also heard if the business employs “models”, not waitstaff, then you can absolutely fire them for not waxing/wearing their hair the right way/putting on makeup. I don’t know if that’s true.

        4. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          I wonder if that means their waitstaff gets full minimum wage and not the 2 bucks an hour tipped employees get. I sure hope so, those women must put up with a lot.

        5. blackcat*

          If the waitstaff are “entertainment staff” does that mean they have to be paid real minimum wage instead of tipped minimum wage?

      2. CMart*

        They also get assigned sections based upon how good looking they are any given week.

        Like, waist/bust measurements, ab tone, how well done your hair is etc… There’s actual, physical standards they measure, and if you accidentally ate an overly large breakfast burrito before the inspection you’ll get demoted to that section of wobbly tables next to the kitchen that no one wants to sit in.

        Or at least, so said a local Twin Peaks waitress who was drinking at the restaurant I work at after a shift, grumpy because she’d been demoted to #2.

        1. The Strand*

          Wow. I thought that kind of crapulence went away with the mandatory weighing-in of stewardesses. Someone get me my flame-thrower.

    6. HR Caligula*

      I had a business trip down to El Paso in April, a Twin Peaks was closest to the hotel so I wandered over for dinner. Being from Seattle I associated with the TV series. Boy, I was wrong.
      If it was possible to calculate how many times I’ve been called “hun” or “sweetie” my entire life it couldn’t have reached 1/2 the total for that night.

      Not my scene but I give credit for good food.

    1. Blue Anne*

      I’m just boggling over the idea that it’s a good way to bond, too. I mean… my department has big social get-togethers every few months for one thing or another. In the past year we’ve had:

      -A bowling night
      -A day out at Go Ape, a big outdoor ropes course
      -Christmas ball
      -Cocktail making class
      -Mystery escape room thing (super fun, google it)

      All of which involved dinner as well. At establishments that were not geared around ogling mammaries. Nice bonding happened. Fun times. Now I know my co-workers better. You know what wasn’t involved at any point? Hooters, strip clubs, or pretty much anything about breasts other than “ow, I totally bruised my boob” jumping into a net at Go Ape.

      I mean. Whaaaaaat.

      1. Kiki*

        Oof, I have zero interest in any of those…I’d much rather host a get-together with everyone at the gym for a one rep max deadlift session. But I get that not everyone might enjoy that. To each her own, and by that I guess I mean, don’t make me feel like I have to smile and attend a work event during non-work hours.

      2. Elfie*

        Oh man, I would love to go to Go Ape. I keep trying to suggest it for a work outing, but none of my co-workers are interested. I need new co-workers!

  15. Artemesia*

    The term ‘fair game’ is at its heart deeply hostile. I have recently seen it used with regard to Fox news hassling and humiliating children who are involved in testifying before Congress or demonstrating for apolitical cause. They are now ‘fair game’ and so we can ridicule them, post their name and address etc etc. Fair game is an aggressive hostile notion that has no place in the workplace.

    An HR department that sponsors this is mis-educating its students and while you can imagine some workplaces stupidly and ignorantly stumbling into something like this, for an HR program it is outrageous — fire the director level of outrageous.

  16. Jerzy*

    Good rule of thumb: Don’t host work events at places named after boobs, any sort of genitalia, or derrieres.

    ***The more you know***

    1. Blue Anne*

      …okay, I have to admit, when I finally open my little boutique accounting firm, if there is a pub nearby named for something involving butts, I would be very tempted to take my team out for lunch there.

      I’m trying to come up with good butt-related pub names now. Bum and Crown? The Callipygian? Uncle Ogle-apple’s? Behind’s? Glutes Galore?

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        There’s a very successful grocery store chain in Texas/Mexico based in San Antonio called H-E-B, which is the H.E. Butt Grocery Company, for the founder, Howard Edward Butt. Awesome grocery store.

        R.H. Dedman Memorial Medical Center changed its name for a good reason too.

        In Abu Dhabi, there was a Butt Sweets shop. Never found out whether it was a translation misunderstanding or usage of a surname.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I never knew that about HEB! Wonderful grocery stores, but I did initially wonder if it was pronounced the same way as the derogatory abbreviation of “Hebrew.” For a few days, I was worried that Texas was way more backward than I thought. Mercifully, someone finally say “H-E-B” out loud.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            Strong argument for keeping your last name had you married him.

            On the flip side, I knew a girl whose last name was Butt. Strong argument for being traditional! :)

          2. Blue Anne*

            I used to go out with a guy whose surname was Hogg. At the same time, I had an absolutely gorgeous tutor whose surname was Butts. My friends wanted me to marry them in succession so that I could be Anne Hogbutts.

        2. Elizabeth S.*

          But wait, there’s more.

          In Kerrville, where H-E-B had its origin, the beautiful new library is named in honor of the grocery store patriarch and his mother, Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth, a great promoter of libraries.

          And it’s called the Butt-Holdsworth Library.

          It’s a great asset to the city.

    2. Nerdling*

      Hugh Jass burgers. Not a breastaurant, but I still wouldn’t have a work event there. I’d order in. ;)

  17. LBK*

    I’d be more inclined to buy the “it’s just part of the culture/it’s outside of work so who cares?” argument if it applied to both genders, but I doubt most of the men who see no problem with going to a female strip club with coworkers would be fine with getting dragged to a male strip club and told “it’s just part of what you have to do to fit in”. If normalizing the sexualization of women is “just part of your culture,” it’s a shitty, sexist, terribly outdated culture.

    1. neverjaunty*

      You know exactly how these professors or OP’s boyfriend would react if a female boss told them “We’re all going to Moby Dick’s to celebrate. Hey, don’t be all unmutual about it, don’t you want to be a team player? Anyway, I just like the place because they have great wings, I totally don’t go there for the hot guys in tight Speedos, why do you have to make this an issue?”

      1. the gold digger*

        Except for Moby Dick’s to be appealing to me, it would not have to be just Idris Elba or Demian Birchir (completely clothed) working there, they would have to sit down with me, ask, “So what happened at work today? What’s going on with your crazy inlaws?” and then listen – LISTEN – while I talked.

        And then they would say, “That SUCKS!”, clean the bathroom, make my lunch for the next day, and then give me a foot massage while I watched “Revenge.”

        1. LBK*

          Heh – this reminds me of the “porn for women” channel from 30 Rock, which is just a hot man asking questions about how your day was into the camera.

        2. neverjaunty*

          You joke, but in actual strip bars, the real money comes from guys who pay the women to sit at their tables and listen to them talk.

        3. Malissa*

          Funny thing is, I’ve had the servers at Hooters sit and talk to me. They’ve asked about my job, kids, and other things. And they sat there and listened. Very smart servers.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            I’ve had surprisingly deep conversations with Hooter’s waitresses. On slow nights they’re more incentivized to spend more time with the customers than at regular restaurants since they’re as much the product being sold as the wings.

          2. Melissa*

            Apparently, that’s a big part of the job. There was an AMA at Reddit with a waitress from Tilted Kilt, which is another breasterant, and she said that the biggest part of the job for her was making connections with people and ensuring that her customers had a good time.

            1. Malissa*

              Tilted Kilt is a breasteraunt? I was kind hoping it involved men in kilts, worn traditionally. Sigh.

              1. Dana*

                The men at the bar do wear kilts. But the women wear tiny outfits that show off their cleavage, legs, and midriffs.

            2. Chinook*

              Every time I see “Tilted Kilt” I keep thinking of the “Men in Kilts” window washing service (whose motto is “no peeking”). I never knew that kilts were something sexualized on women because, around here, that is something either worn by men or someone in uniform.

      2. Elysian*

        When you say Moby Dick’s, I hear “House of Kabob” in which case I’ve had several delicious work events related to them.

        1. Ann*

          Ha, I did the same thing. I kept thinking, “Wait, what’s wrong with Moby Dick? Even my vegetarian coworker likes it there!” Then I decided to read for context and…oh.

  18. spek*

    You should question the judgement of ANYONE who doesn’t think the food at Hooter’s is terrible….

  19. some1*

    I think a lot of people are going to agree with you, LW, but I also don’t think your BF is going to be swayed by any argument that anonymous people have on the internet if your (completely valid) points didn’t make him see it. I mean, he’s not just saying there’s nothing wrong going to Hooters for a work event (which is a matter of opinion), he thinks your friend was actually in the wrong for opting out of a situation where she felt uncomfortable which is way more concerning. He doesn’t get to decide what your friend’s comfort level should be.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This is an excellent point.

      When OP says he is “older” I wonder if she means he’s old enough to still have some disconnect with the idea that ladies have a function in the workplace other than as support staff.

            1. neverjaunty*

              I’m finding this a little baffling. It’s not that every guy over a certain age is a Neanderthal and young guys are all chill, it’s that societal attitudes about women in the workplace (especially in professional careers) have changed over time. Someone who was raised at a time when it was considered daring and in your face for a woman to have a credit card in her own name is more likely to have a different attitude about what’s appropriate or normal than someone raised at a time where women having careers is no big deal.

              1. fposte*

                By “this” do you mean my response? I’m basing it on the fact that it hasn’t been daring and in-your-face for a woman to have a credit card for 60 years (they might not even be a good example, since the old charge-a-plates were aimed primarily at female department-store customers anyway).

                I mean yeah, attitudes toward women are always changing, but the restrictions you’re postulating really aren’t recent enough to exonerate somebody under the retirement age.

                1. TychaBrahe*

                  Excuse me, but the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which guaranteed a woman the right to have a credit card in her own names without being backed by their husband’s signature, is only 41 years old.

                2. The Strand*

                  Yeah, I have to agree with TychaBrahe, I worked with someone (not retirement age yet) who told me how hard it was to get credit as a woman in the 1980s. I want to say there were still protests over this in Minnesota in 1983 or so, because credit unions would not open accounts for women without their husband’s permission. I remember it specifically being Minnesota due to a book called “A Century of Women” which showed pictures of the protests (with women in warm coats, natch).

                  This is an awesome article about the history of feminist credit unions: http://www.cutimes.com/2012/12/12/society-and-credit-unions-have-come-a-long-way-bab

                  My ex-colleague told me after her sister got married, after a full career and long history of paying bills, she went to a major department store to change the name on the cards, and they cut up the card in front of her, closing the account. She was now expected to go back and get the credit under her husband’s name. I am guessing this happened in the years before the ECOA was passed.

                3. neverjaunty*

                  What TychaBrahe said. I am well under retirement age and I personally remember when it was perfectly legal for partnerships (like law firms) to openly refuse to promote women, and for women to have to fight tooth and nail to be treated equally by financial institutions – even after the laws changed.

                  If you don’t remember these things, that’s good. But they didn’t happen all that long ago.

                4. Chinook*

                  I know my grandmother made a point with my grandfather back in the 80’s when he made an off-handed comment about her not being able to get a credit card in her name. Her response was to walk down to the mall (she never did learn to drive) apply and then wave it in his face. She also paid it off regularly because she was the one paying the bills even if he was the one making the money.

                  That same grandfather, though, had pretty strong thoughts about women’s equality and never stopped supporting his daughters and granddaughters in what we could do. One attitude has nothing to with the other, they just often co-exist.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Wow, that’s ageist. Have your forgotten that the Boomers were the ones that lobbied for equality for women?

          2. Artemesia*

            the oldest boomers came of age in the late 60s — the height of the civil rights and feminist rights periods — there is NO boomer who doesn’t know the score on sexism and racism. People old enough to blame ‘the way it was when I grew up’ are now in their 80s or older and not often still in the workplace.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Are you seriously contending that nobody of the Boomer generation is racist or sexist? Seriously?

        1. Blue Anne*

          Sadly, there are men in their *20s* at my workplace who work with highly capable women every day and have still made comments in my earshot like “I don’t know why Ms. Talented Manager is even still working, she’s got two kids and her husband makes a load of money.”

      1. some1*

        I was just talking to a friend about this, when I was in my 20s I dated a guy who was significantly older, and I think sometimes I found his opinions to be somehow more valid/interesting/whatever just because he had more life experience than I did. The last few times I have run into the same guy 10+ years later, I have actually found him to be pretty annoying, because I no longer think of him as wise just because of his age.

        1. Becky B*

          Heh, I get you. What was fun when they were less-older can become stodgy even a decade later. Sometimes someone just stops evolving, and gets very repressive about one’s mindset and views and opinions.

          I hereby resolve not to let it happen to me! (I hope I realize it if it is.)

      2. MashaKasha*

        Probably not Boomer for reasons listed here, but I can very well imagine him being in the mindset of “I’m older than she is, so I know better. Whatever she thinks is silly, whatever I think is deep wisdom that comes with age”. She could be 25 and he could be 30 and they might still have this dynamics.

        1. Avocado*

          Yeah. Whatever their dynamic actually is, I feel like the fact that the LW thought it was relevant to mention that he’s older in the letter says that it’s an important part of the picture to her. It’s coloring something about this disagreement between them.

    2. Liz T.*

      Yeah the boyfriend has even crazier ideas than the terrible HR people. Everything that’s not illegal is fair game? This sounds like a guy who has to use the “hey, it’s my freedom of speech” defense a lot.

  20. BRR*

    This is one of those scenarios where instead of debating whether it’s right or wrong why can’t they just choose a different restaurant?

  21. Erin*

    I have to disagree on your views on Hooters in general. I’ve eaten there a few times – with my husband, just my mom and me, with a group – and I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I think it would even be fine to bring kids there. But as you acknowledged, people can do whatever they want in their personal time and that’s not what we’re talking about here.

    Regarding the specific situation: At first I was tempted to say it’s still not that bad, partially because it’s a college environment. A family member of mine was a successful college professor for over 30 years and once allowed students to hire a stripper for a colleague’s birthday and there were no problems. And she was actually a really strict teacher, but trusted this group of students. (This was admittedly many years ago, and before cell phone cameras.)

    Anyway, what really gets me though is that people opted not to participate and were forced to elaborate on why they felt uncomfortable – that’s unacceptable. If they wanted to bow out that’s perfectly understandable and no one should have given them crap about it.

    Also, my initial thought that this wasn’t that bad because of the college environment is sort of trumped by the fact it was an HR program. I wanted to give the professors the benefit of the doubt, but oh dear, this was probably not a good idea and I think I’m landing on your and Alison’s side of the fence. I just wanted to point out that in some circumstances I think it’s okay. Which brings me to…

    Regarding the bigger picture situation of parties like this in general in work environments: I completely agree with Alison on the statement that taking clients/colleagues to Hooters, strip clubs, etc., can be acceptable in certain situations but this is the exception to the norm. Everything just kind of comes back to this statement for me.

    I think you can go ahead and show your boyfriend this post and let him know you won this one. ;-)

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think it’s so much about the actual visual experience being too graphic – I don’t think the outfits are so risque that you couldn’t take a child there (definitely no worse than anything you could see on network TV). Rather, it’s that the concept of Hooters is undeniably for people to be able to look at hot women in skimpy outfits while they eat, which is an inappropriate environment for an allegedly professional event and one which many in attendance would probably take issue with. Particularly after concerns have been raised, it’s wildly insensitive to just tell people they’re wrong and to suck it up, especially with such a lame excuse as “we’re just going there for the food” – as if Hooters is the only place in the world that serves food worth eating.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I wasn’t brave enough to say it first, so I’m glad you did. I think Hooters are different depending on their locations. Some are racy, and some are the same as an Applebee’s. Waitresses may be wearing bikini’s at the truck stop restaurant or jeans and a t-shirt in the suburbs. If you have only been to the suburb Hooters, it won’t seem like there is a problem.
      And as opinions change, I think Hooter’s is changing. I wouldn’t be surprised if they re-brand in a few years.
      And I think the atmosphere depends more on the patrons than on the staff.

      1. Erin*

        Also good points. I believe the Hooters near me used to be more racy and has toned it down, and how it is today, in that particular location, is how I was thinking of it here.

      2. neverjaunty*

        I honestly don’t know what I am missing here. Hooters’ entire brand is about attractive young women in skimpy clothing designed to show off their figures. The name of the restaurant is a euphemism for breasts. Are some of them more in your face about it than others? Definitely, but it’s still a “breastaurant” and that is how it differentiates itself from Wing Stop or Olive Garden.

        1. Erin*

          I think some Hooters have waitresses dance on tables borderline stripping in addition to wearing what they wear. Which would be a big distinction for me, in say whether or not I’d be comfortable bringing children there, but I understand your point – it is what it is.

      3. LBK*

        As I said above, it’s less about the actual optics of being in the restaurant and more about the concept – even if they’ve toned down the outfits, they still explicitly only hire attractive women (I believe they were the cause of the ruling that you can make gender a job requirement as long as it’s a “bona fide” qualification for doing the job). The cornerstone of their business model is still selling an experience that sexualizes women. I’m not a big fan of that business model even existing, never mind being forced to patronize that business for work, whether or not I’m offended by the sight of boobs in a bikini.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I agree that their marketing concept is unsavory and behind the times. I just wanted to say that the organizers of the party may not have understood the objections. If they were regular patrons of this Hooters and thought it was the same as an Applebee’s, they may have honestly been confused. I think they needed to step back for a second and figure it out, of course. But they may have been thinking, “Why don’t they like Sportsbars?”

          1. LBK*

            I refuse to believe that anyone over the age of 10 thinks there’s no difference between Applebee’s and Hooters or just thinks of Hooters as a general sports bar, no matter how much more conservatively the waitresses are dressed these days.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Regarding the bigger picture situation of parties like this in general in work environments: I completely agree with Alison on the statement that taking clients/colleagues to Hooters, strip clubs, etc., can be acceptable in certain situations but this is the exception to the norm.

      Whoa, wait! To be clear, I don’t think it’s ever acceptable.

      Hooters is very clear that their business model is to be an adult-oriented sexually-themed business. They’ve explicitly said that in court filings. They’re sexually themed entertainment; there’s no way that’s appropriate for work. (Why they then allow kids there, I’ll never understand.)

      1. neverjaunty*

        And by “court filings”, what is meant is Hooters claims that it doesn’t have to follow anti discrimination laws, which would require it to hire men, older women, etc, as waitstaff because they are an adult entertainment venue, not a restaurant per se; therefore being a conventionally attractive young woman is a BFOQ (bona fide occupational qualification) which exempts them.

        Of course as soon as they run into a venue that has strict laws about zoning of adult entertainment businesses, suddenly they say they’re just a restaurant….

        The guy who started Hooters was once asked if there was any place for men in the business and replied “Management.” I’m not sure what else you need to know about Hooters to tell whether it’s ‘not that bad’.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s the sticking point for me. They want it both ways, big time, and have staked a lot of work practice and money on the fact that they do exist for titillation. If that’s not what they’re about, they can’t hire the way they do.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep. I’d actually prefer a strip club, in that it’s honest about the nature of the business, which seems far less insidious to me. Openly sexualizing women and calling it appropriate for kids is way worse to me than a clearly labeled adults-only strip club.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Exactly. I joke that their unofficial motto is “Hooters: When You’re Too Chickensh*t to Go to a Real Strip Bar”.

        2. Turtle Candle*

          The guy who started Hooters was once asked if there was any place for men in the business and replied “Management.”

          Oh wow. I’d never gone and never wanted to go (the marketing makes it very clear that I am not the target audience, and when marketing has put a lot of effort into making such a thing clear, I am quite happy to not give them my money–not to mention that, as you say, they’re an adult oriented business when that’s convenient for them, and again, if they’re going to take advantage of that categorization in hiring, I don’t feel the need to buy the ‘oh but it’s really just a family restaurant’ line the rest of the time).

          But that quote puts a whole new level of icky icing on the cake.

        3. Turanga Leela*

          The “management” comment makes total sense. I was fine with Hooters for a long time—I’m a sucker for fried pickles, and a friend of a friend worked there and said the tips were better than at casual dining restaurants. (I know, it’s not exactly a scientific sample.) Then I saw the “Undercover Boss” episode about the chain, which revealed that the management is nearly all male, they harass the servers in really gross ways, and there’s essentially no path for advancement for the women who work there.

          None of this should have been a surprise, but it was. I haven’t been back.

          1. Partly Cloudy*

            I only remember one douchebag manager from that episode. I remember thinking that the undercover boss should’ve blown his cover and fired the guy. I wonder if everyone who appears on camera has to sign a release for them to air their footage? If so, I’m surprised that the DB manager consented to having his shenanigans televised.

    4. fposte*

      Since it hasn’t gotten attention, I’m also going to face-palm at the class stripper party. I don’t get the “trusted this group of students” part–the issue with a stripper isn’t that something bad might happen, it’s that you don’t hire sexualized entertainment for your class-related events.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Yeah, not unless you’re in gender/women’s studies or sociology and doing some sort of analysis on this aspect of pop culture. And you better have an awesome seminar paper to back it up!

        1. Erin*

          Lol! It was a male stripper, not that it really matters, but that could have been an interesting seminar paper!

    5. Artemesia*

      It doesn’t matter that the outfits are not that revealing or whatever — the marketing is about titties and a salacious environment — it is just a terrible standard to present to kids . Who wants their kids thinking treating women like meat is just a normal thing to do?

  22. Amanda*

    Picture, if you will, a seven-year-old girl (me; I have brown curly hair if that helps with the picturing) and her ten-year-old brother. Their parents take them out to lunch after church on Sundays. One Sunday, there is a new restaurant in town. It is called Hooters and has an owl in its logo.

    The parents had never heard of it before. They think it is indeed a family restaurant. They take the children. Even the seven-year-old wonders why the waitresses are all wearing such tight shirts and short shorts.

    The family never goes back. (Even though the father does like hot wings. He can find tasty hot wings at other locations.)

    The seven-year-old grew up understanding that Hooters is NOT an appropriate venue for anything work-related. It only took the one time.

    On another note, in their personal lives, people are welcome to do what they like as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, but honestly? If my boyfriend were the type to want to eat at Hooters (and *especially* if he disregarded my or another’s discomfort about going there) he wouldn’t be my boyfriend.

    1. the gold digger*

      I was commenting to a VP at the horrible corporate finance job where I was counseled for leaving work at 6 that Hooter’s was not a good place for a work meeting.

      He was genuinely puzzled. “But I like their wings!”

      I asked, “Do you want your daughter” (who was seven years old) “to work there when she grows up?”

      The blood drained from his face.

      “Oh,” he said. “Yes. I see what you mean.”

    2. LOLwut*

      On the other hand, my wife actually suggested going to the Tilted Kilt last night, and jokingly questioned my sexuality when I turned it down. We also have a deal where I get to mock-ogle Emma Stone if she gets to mock-ogle Chris Evans. This is why she’s my wife.

      Takes all kinds, I guess.

      1. the gold digger*

        My husband and I have a deal that if he is stuck in an elevator with Kate Winslet and she says, “Come on big boy, let’s go,” it’s OK.

        Of course, we have the same deal with me and Idris or Demian.

      2. DC Anon*

        While I am quite comfortable going to sexually-oriented businesses with my husband, I am not comfortable doing so with my co-workers. Kind of a key difference there. :)

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I went to the Baton Club (drag club) for a bachelorette party many years ago. Not something I’d want to do with my boss. (Some co-workers would find it fun, but only as a social outing.)

        2. simonthegrey*

          My husband found walking past all the strip clubs on our honeymoon in New Orleans far more uncomfortable than I did.

      3. V.V.*

        Ah the Tilted Kilt. My friend and I visited the Tilted Kilt in the New York, New York Casino, while we were waiting for a show. I did not see any of the servers until we were already inside and looking at the menu at the hosting booth; once we were greeted, I think we felt too on- the- spot to back out.

        Though our server was really nice and courteous, I was startled whenever she came to our table. And it wasn’t even because her work ensemble was skimpy. I had to bite down and suppress my gut “Omigod I can see that poor girl’s bra!” reaction everytime she walked by.

        I seriously had to keep reminding myself that her bra was *supposed* to show and that it was just part of the uniform.

    3. Adam*

      I’ve only been to a Hooter’s one time. My best friend and I were 20 years old and went to Vancouver B.C. (we lived in Seattle) on a whim for the day. We just walked around and saw the sites and then it came time for dinner. We went into a Hooter’s because it was the first restaurant in eye-shot so we thought we’d try it, not really thinking much of it. We went in and immediately got super uncomfortable. The waitresses were super nice and everything, but my friend and I are both are fairly religious and the atmosphere made us super awkward even though it’s pretty tame in the grand scheme of such style of venues. We never got a table; just thanked the hostess and left to find something else.

      I haven’t been in a Hooter’s since, but I think I’d be mostly fine for it now, but mostly I look back on that memory and laugh at the image of two young guys shuffling awkwardly out of the restaurant while the nice waitresses had confused looks on their faces.

    4. CheeryO*

      My 13 year-old cousin was on vacation with her friend recently, and her friend’s dad dropped them off at a shopping plaza with $20 and instructions to “find something to eat.” Well, the only option was Hooters. So that’s how two 13 year-old girls ended up dining alone at Hooters. (Apparently the waitresses were very nice to them, and more than a little surprised when they left a very appropriate $3 tip.)

    5. Eugenie*

      The exact same thing happened when I was a kid! My mom saw the sign from the road and suggested Hooters as our Sunday night out that week (“You know, that fun place with the owl on the front!”)

      My parents turned us around and marched us back out after standing in the doorway for 15 seconds and realizing this wasn’t a “Sunday-Night-Out” kind of place.

  23. RVA Cat*

    Why am I guessing that Mr. Fair Game would suddenly change his position if he was invited to a team-building event at a gay bar?

    1. Older Boyfriend*

      Believe it or not, I’m the OP’s “older” boyfriend. I am enjoying reading the comments and discussion. As to whether I would change my position if the majority of the team wanted to do a team building event at a gay bar…I would only object if the food or drinks were bad. The reason for the team outing in question was, however, for food and beer. In my experience, gay bars rarely serve food. The ones I’ve been to make excellent cocktails, though. I’ve only been to one Hooters restaurant, and when I went the outfits were nothing extraordinary, compared to other places. The wings were good, and, more importantly, they had very large tables, able to accommodate a large group (15), rather than splitting them up into separate groups of four or five.

      A better foil would be having the event at a beefcake restaurant equivalent, like Tallywackers. If that were the case, and I was asked to go along after the majority of the group I was with voted that way (and the food was not mere window dressing), I would have gone along with the will of the majority and most likely had a good laugh at the antics of the waiters and my co-workers, if there was any to be had. To paraphrase: what’s good for the gander is good for the goose, no?

      1. Kvaren*

        It may well be good for geese and gander, but actual humans could feel uncomfortable attending a work function in either environment.

        1. fposte*

          And the goose and gander tend to have very different societal expectations. I don’t think anybody should be doing work events at either Tallywacker’s or Hooters, but they’re not culturally equivalent. More equivalent might be a restaurant called “Your Men Suck at Providing for You, Ladies, So Let Our Billionaire Waiters Bring You Food and Pay All Your Bills, and Tell You How Sad It Is that Your Men Are Inadequate.”

          It would be wildly popular, but it would cost too much to run.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        What’s good for the goose or the gander isn’t really the question. It’s that some things are inappropriate, regardless. (Which is why I don’t like the male strip club or male gay bar comparison, although I understand what they’re trying to say.) Sexualized entertainment at work is inappropriate, period — because it makes loads of reasonable people uncomfortable and signals that sexual objectification is an okay thing in that office.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. Nobody is actually saying this would be totally OK as long as the next party was at a beefcake “family” restaurant; we’re pointing out that there’s a long-standing and ugly cultural norm that centers the legitimacy and power in the workplace around men such that therefore it’s reasonable and businesslike to go to strip bars to “bond” with clients or to have a work outing to Hooters. Pointing out that the same people who pretend But They Have Awesome Wings would likely not be quite as chill with a strip-bar-lite that features sexualized men (or that maybe those people would not be so cool with their daughters working at But They Have Awesome Wings, as one commenter noted) is meant to highlight that, not suggest a tit-for-tat, as it were.

        2. Older Boyfriend*

          I suppose the question boils down to whether or not the specific Hooters had sexualized entertainment, and what you mean by the term. We may have very different experiences of Hooters. As I said, the only one I have been to was more or less a straight up restaurant, with servers wearing tight orange shorts and branded tank-tops.

          There was, however, nothing I would consider to be “sexualized” entertainment. The waitress did not jump rope or participate in a wet t-shirt contest. All she did was be pleasant, take our orders, and bring the food and drinks. Perhaps that’s not the norm for the restaurant chain, but I suspect that was the case at the Hooters in question, given the locale.

          Honestly, as I understood the story my girlfriend told, Hooters seemed to be the best logistical fit for the Christmas party in question. It was within walking distance of the college and had a table large enough to accommodate the entire group. It just happened to have waitresses in tight outfits. I don’t consider that to be enough to be considered “sexualized entertainment”, especially when you contrast it with other restaurants’ server attire.

          Just as “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” in psychology, sometimes people really do go to Hooters for the wings.

          1. LBK*

            Your head is buried in the sand if you don’t think the entire existence of Hooters is based on sexualization of women, no matter how buttoned-up that particular location is. Read many of the numerous other comments here detailing their business practices, particularly as it pertains to their own descriptions of their company.

            I mean the name of the damn restaurant is basically “Boobs”. It feels like you have to lie to yourself pretty hard to not think of it as somewhere that treats women as sex objects.

          2. fposte*

            A lot of men go to prostitutes just to talk, but that still doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to hire one for a class outing.

          3. Artemesia*

            It just doesn’t matter. The core business model of Hooters is to demean women and treat them like appetizers for men. It is just inappropriate as a work venue. It is so not about the ‘food and drink’ and I think you know that.

            1. OP*


              I wish I wasn’t so busy at work today! I’ve been skimming but haven’t had much time to fully read or comment. Can’t wait to read more of these comments later!

              Boyfriend, I’m so glad you are commenting too!

          4. MashaKasha*

            So they are really an innocent wing joint, that only called themselved Hooters because “B-Dubs” was taken?

            They might have good wings, but their business model is not based on that at all. And their business model is what I’m having issues with.

          5. AnonAcademic*

            You seem like you are being deliberately obtuse about this. Just because you are the mythical man who goes to Hooters for the wings and reads playboy for the articles doesn’t mean you get to set the standards for what other people are ok with in the workplace; in fact the opposite is true.

          6. MsM*

            While I am sure the waitress was nothing but professional, I am equally certain her customer service skills were not the most important factor in hiring her.

          7. neverjaunty*

            And sometimes people really did read Playboy just for the articles. I don’t think that anyone would therefore buy it if you turned around and said it wasn’t a sexually-themed magazine.

          8. phillist*

            It’s named… Boobs. They have filed legal documents as a corporation stating that they are “adult entertainment”.

            Not sexualized? Seriously? Is this for real? I just can’t believe anyone legitimately looks at a Ruby Tuesday’s and a Hooters and thinks, “potato, potato.”

      3. Elizabeth West*

        The wings were good, and, more importantly, they had very large tables, able to accommodate a large group (15), rather than splitting them up into separate groups of four or five.

        Plenty of places have good wings. It’s really hard to mess up chicken wings. And restaurants push tables together for large parties all the time. Nice try, but no.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Also, my experience is that a lot of local family places have separate rooms are areas that can be reserved to accommodate a large party, often better than a chain. (Unless it’s very small, almost every Italian restaurant I’ve been in has this as an option. And pasta!)

      4. Mike C.*

        So what is it about a restaurant that reduces women to sex objects being inappropriate for the work setting that you don’t understand?

        1. Older Boyfriend*

          It wasn’t a work setting. The title of this post is misleading.

          It was a student organized Christmas party that included the professors of their HR program, all of whom, it seems, did not object to the location.

          1. Observer*

            The fact that professors did not object does not lead to the conclusion that it was ok. It leads to the question of whether the faculty is competent to teach about HR.

            To recap – the group wanted to go to a place that explicitly states that their business is selling “adult themed entertainment”, several people objected and not only did the leaders of the group refuse to change the venue, they tried to force the objectors to go along with it, and criticized them for not coming to the event. Any HR “professional” who thinks it’s ok for there to be professional blowback to someone over refusing to attend a work-related social event at an adult-themed venue is an invitation for a law suit.

      5. Ad Astra*

        It’s nice that you’re not opposed to gay bars, and I realize that you’re just responding to an offhand remark, but gooses and ganders are sort of irrelevant here. Sexually-oriented venues aren’t an appropriate place to do business. That’s the real issue.

        1. Older Boyfriend*

          No business was done. The title of this post is misleading. It was a student organized Christmas party.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            As I wrote below (above?), it’s a professional program designed to prepare people for work. The party was explicitly for the program.

            1. OP*

              Alison, I completely agree. While I can appreciate that my boyfriend sees this as a student event and not “business,” my argument is that they are in the business of learning about how to conduct themselves as HR professionals. And, I suppose technically, for the faculty/staff participating it would count as a business party for them? They teach these students, so therefore they are in a business relationship with them, right?

              Let’s suppose that none of the faculty/staff were not invited and didn’t attend. Would your answer still be the same? I think it might change mine a bit – I could attribute the location to the ignorance of youth and college students hanging out together. Still questionable for HR students, but not as terrible. I would hope that the professors in this case would have addressed the situation if they got wind of it, though. The fact that they attended is really where I find fault with this story.

          2. Saurs*

            Money exchanged hands in the context of a human resources course attended by students, some of whom didn’t want to hold their party there and didn’t attend specifically because of the venue choice.

      6. Engineer Girl*

        It’s a false equivalency because different sexes are, in general, threatened by different things. For women it is threatening to be sexualized and seen “only” as a sex object in a work environment. For men it is being viewed as inadequate. As fposte pointed out below, a better equivalency would be a place that mocks men’s ability to meet the needs of those they care for. This is a generality, but holds true for most.
        The greatest problem with your argument is that it would be very easy to find a venue that met everyone’s needs. When someone goes forward anyway with plans that ignores the belief systems of others you’re basically dissing that belief system, and the person with it. That’s the key point here – it is easy to do the right thing and people are actively choosing NOT to do it and calling others hypersensitive for having beliefs that differ from their own.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          BTW, I think that ease of accommodation is a critical point of this whole discussion. It would have been easy to move the venue to something that would have satisfied everyone’s needs (not wants). It’s telling that the HR people chose not to do it.
          Ease of accommodation is a foundation of employment law – religious accommodation where it does not create “undue hardship”. FMLA within reason (greater than 50 employees, not a key player). ADA accommodation where possible. There’s even accommodation for race and looks based on need (movies, etc.) The whole principle is accommodating when there is no undue hardship – something these so-called “HR professionals” (not!) chose to ignore.
          I wouldn’t want to hire any of these people. I’d be worried about future lawsuits at my company because of their failure to accommodate reasonable requests.

  24. Anonathon*

    Gah, this story contains one of my biggest pet peeves. Namely, why was the onus entirely on these three people (with whom I obviously agree) to “prove” that their discomfort was justified? Who cares? If 10% of the group says they are uneasy, then they are entitled to that unease and the leaders of this trip should seriously consider that. Frankly, if said leaders were so dead-set on Hooters that they were willing to sacrifice their colleague’s feelings and presence … then they didn’t really pick Hooters because it’s fun and the food is nice. Zillions of restaurants fill that criteria. They picked it (duh) because they liked the idea of Hooters and didn’t want someone telling them that this jolly plan was maybe a touch offensive/problematic. Just … practice some empathy for goodness’ sake. *end rant*

    1. Serin*

      then they didn’t really pick Hooters because it’s fun and the food is nice. Zillions of restaurants fill that criteria. They picked it (duh) because they liked the idea of Hooters and didn’t want someone telling them that this jolly plan was maybe a touch offensive/problematic.

      Yes, this. For the whole time my kid was in preschool/grade school, my father-in-law tried to get us to agree to a Hooters trip every time he visited, and it was because he enjoyed mocking all the anti-Hooters arguments.

  25. Engineer Girl*

    There’s so many things wrong with this.
    * First, there is the Tyranny of the Majority. de Tocqueville wrote about it, and everyone should read it. It is the discussion of how you can disenfranchise people that hold the minority viewpoint by the “majority takes all” viewpoint and ignoring the needs of the minority. The HR group certainly did it in spades. Forcing someone to explain themselves only to use that information to counter their argument? Now the minority are really disenfranchised! A disenfranchised employee costs the company money. They produce less, are more likely to sue, and more likely to leave the company. A good HR professional would have found a way to get ALL the needs met. In this case, it would have been simple enough to just move the venue. That’s what makes going ahead with the plan so egregious.
    * The second problem with the argument is using “it’s legal” as an argument. Many things are legal but not wise or good. Go back to the disenfranchisement argument for starters. Yes, it was legal, but now 3 people are alienated. So much for team cohesion. Or how about smoking pot in CO? Legal and you can get fired for it. It’s legal to smoke but most companies now forbid it because it harms others. It’s legal to drink but companies bar it because it impairs thinking.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I should add, Madison wrote about this too. Wikipedia has a great statement:
      James Madison in Federalist paper #10 argues against this “tyranny” as he did in a letter to Jefferson at the end of the Constitutional Convention. The phrase “tyranny of the majority” (or “tyranny of the masses”), used in discussing systems of democracy and majority rule, involves the scenario in which decisions made by a majority place its interests above those of an individual or minority group, constituting active oppression comparable to that of tyrants and despots. In many cases a disliked ethnic, religious or racial group is deliberately penalized by the majority element acting through the democratic process.

  26. Ann O'Nemity*

    This is fake, right?

    I mean, it might be believable if we were talking about some startup with 5 clueless employees. But HR students and professors? No, this has got to be fake.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think so. I had some genuine back and forth with the OP, and if it were fake, there’d be no need to put it in the context of an argument; it could just be “this happened to me.”

    2. Elysian*

      I totally believe this story. As I noted above, something similar enough has happened to me, and I’m a lawyer for goodness sake.

      1. cuppa*

        Yeah, I actually attended a work event at Dick’s Last Resort as an intern, which, now that I’m thinking about it, was only slightly better than Hooters. It happens.

    3. Sunflower*

      I totally believe it esp. depending on the region. I would believe that in certain smaller towns Hooters might be the go-to restaurant in town

    4. Night Owl*

      As a former Hooters girl, I see no reason to think it’s fake. You’d be shocked how many work groups we had come in.

      1. Elysian*

        I would guess you’d have interesting insight into this question, and would love to read what you think!

        1. Night Owl*

          Sure. I will say that in response to some of the doubt about people’s motives for going, there actually are plenty of customers who don’t go for the girls. Groups of customers were usually male, but we’d have women come in on their own or in pairs and some men as well who barely paid attention to us and clearly just wanted to eat.

          With this situation, I pretty much agree with AAM. I think it’s inappropriate for work things and I used to cringe at the work groups. Mainly because of the power dynamics and how people don’t always get a choice if the decision is made by others or if they don’t feel comfortable speaking up. This is a bad analogy but it reminds me of when people would have like fourteen year old boy’s birthdays with us and most would be loving it, but there’d always be like 1 or 2 boys who would be red or couldn’t look at us properly, and they obviously were just there because their friends were and couldn’t really speak up. It reminds me of that because even if everyone says yes doesn’t mean they’re all actually happy.

          I think Hooters is fine but it should be a choice made by consenting adults who aren’t in a power relationship like a job. As far as everyone talking about how we pretend to be wholesome and not selling sex, I think everyone kind of knows otherwise and you just have to use common sense. I used to get crap about being ‘objectified’, which is true but it’s not like every girl doesn’t know what she’s signing up for. They make you sign this thing pretty much waiving your right not to be sexually harassed before you even start. For customers, it should just be social customers (not work) and parents should choose to not bring their kids there, and if they’re old enough to be going on their own then they’re probably already watching porn anyway.

          1. Zahra*

            I don’t know for the USA (or the particular jurisdiction you are part of), but you can’t waive your rights in Canada. They can make you sign all sorts of papers, but your basics rights (especially those in the Charter of Rights and Freedom, which covers discrimination, among other things) cannot be waived away.

            1. Night Owl*

              Hmm maybe waived isn’t the right word. I don’t remember the exact wording but I had to sign something about how I acknowledge Hooters is based on sex appeal and so the work environment involves frequent sexualized comments and behaviour.

          2. OP*

            I’m so glad you commented. It’s really interesting to hear this from your perspective as a former employee!

    5. OP*

      Not fake! Obviously I can’t prove that without outing myself, my friend and my boyfriend … but it’s definitely all true. And again, not that this proves anything, but Boyfriend and I just spent the evening talking this over and hashing out some of the awesome points made in the comments.

  27. Ad Astra*

    Oh, and if you are so dead set on Hooters because the wings are delicious (and, I admit, I’m sort of craving them now), get takeout. Hooters does takeout.

  28. LQ*

    I wonder if there is a regional thing going on here. I’ve heard from people in the southern US states that it’s a fine place to go to, family restaurant, etc. But in the midwest and on the west coast I’ve never heard it referred to that way. (I’m all the way on the not ok train, but I do wonder if regionalism comes into play.)

    1. some1*

      I was thinking the same thing! I live in the midwest and can think of soooo many places with great chicken wings better than any national chain.

    2. Bekx*

      The first one I ever went to was in Pittsburgh (which I know isn’t technically midwest but it’s not southern). I was really surprised at how the girls were dressed (just regular shorts and a t-shirt). I expected it to be much worse.

      The one I went to in Orlando was similar…it reminded me more of like b-dubs or something.

    3. Artemesia*

      Sexism in my experience, having lived in the Northwest, Midwest and South, all for sizable hunks of time, sexism is more firmly engrained in the South. It is unquestioned in ways that it is not unquestioned elsewhere. Not arguing that it doesn’t exit elsewhere, just as one would argue racism is not only a southern thing — but it is thoroughly woven into the fabric of social life and work life in the South. I have never been asked in the North if that ‘Ms’ is Misss or Missuss?’ with that kind of sneer that says — so trying to hide that you haven’t got a man are you? It happened fairly regularly in the South. I soon adopted the response ‘Well actually, it’s ‘doctor’ — using the title only in this context since it is otherwise pretentious. I have never been told ‘I can’t believe your husband let you XYor Z’ in the non-South — It happened to me several times in the South. It is baked in.

  29. MR*

    I’m curious to know what other issues the OP and her boyfriend are so diametrically opposed to. While not exactly on topic (and perhaps unsolicited, but maybe needed to be said), I would suspect that there are a number of issues the OP may want to be in tune with her boyfriend.

    If something such as this, that happened so long ago to one party, is driving a wedge this deep in the relationship – I wonder if the relationship may be nearing an end. Especially if Alison is being asked to ‘settle this’ for them.

    1. OP*

      Haha great question. Boyfriend and I both really enjoy a good healthy debate. While we do often have differing opinions, we actually often also share similar ideas and perspectives on issues. I find the challenge of expressing my ideas to someone who is keen to understand a new perspective quite exhilarating (and I think Boyfriend feels the same). Often our debates end with some really great new shared knowledge, and sometimes a clear “whoops I was wrong” moment of clarity.

      This situation is actually new- I had forgotten about this Hooters story until it recently came up in conversation with my friend. Later, I mentioned it to my boyfriend in kind of a ” listen to this crazy story from a couple of years ago” tone and then that launched the heated discussion listed above. At one point I said laughingly, “Ack you’re driving me crazy, I’m going to ask Alison from that blog I read to settle this for us!” And then he responded, “do it!” He knew about the post, and we’ve both been following the comments throughout the day.

  30. Colorado*

    I had to laugh reading this, not because I don’t agree with Alison’s response (I completely do) but because Hooters is literally down the street and the closest restaurant to where I work, by at least a few miles. So in a pinch one day, a sales rep and I (both women) went there because we wanted a quick lunch. Once there, we realized it was all you can eat wing Wednesday. Now it’s kind of a ritual for our small office to go for wing Wednesday. All kidding aside, to me the gals are young enough to be my daughters and I personally don’t feel offended, they are there on their own accord making a living. It’s a voluntary thing in the office, don’t go if you don’t want to. Usually it ends up just being us gals. But yeah, mandatory work party, um, no.

    1. Sue Wilson*

      Eh, I think voluntary things in the office aren’t ever completely voluntary. What if you were managing somebody and this was the a core bonding experience? Opting-out becomes damaging, even slightly, for someone’s career.

  31. the_scientist*

    Oh man, my dad teaches HR classes at the college level and I’m tempted to send him this just to see the reaction. I think it would be like that episode of Scanners where the dude’s head explodes……

  32. Adam*

    This is one of those stories where I’m curious what the gender breakdown of the group attending the party would have been. I know HR can be a female dominated area, but obviously there were men in this situation as well. This isn’t a question you can easily get answered, but I’m curious how many people felt uncomfortable about this but felt pressured to keep quiet in addition to the three who actually voiced their concerns.

  33. Malissa*

    Yeah, if they want Hooter’s food for a work related event, they offer very nice catering options. But going any where that makes people uncomfortable for work events is a no go.

    I personally love going to Hooters. The server flirt with everyone. I love the wings. I also dearly love sitting there and people watching. There isn’t a better venue.

  34. Tomato Frog*

    So many things are legal… Sex between consenting adults. Wearing an outfit made entirely of raw meat. Telling someone they’re an idiot who should’ve been strangled at birth. Attending church. All fine ideas for work events, right?

  35. ginger ale for all*

    I once had a guy take me there for a first date. The food wasn’t bad but his behavior was. There was no second date.

    Going with a group to any restaurant that a few people have objections and telling the objectors (sp?) to get over it is a problem. Wasn’t there a letter here once where a boss was going to treat his vegetarian employees to a Brazilian carved meat place? You have to have a group buy in for your crowd. I have a friend who hates vegetables so much that it affects her restaurant choices. We always confirm with her if she will go to the whatever place we are thinking of. I cannot stand spicy hot food, I get the same “hey, would this be okay?” query (although I hate spicy food, there has always been something on the menu I can eat at practically every restaurant I have been to). It gets tough sometimes but it is worth doing.

    You can always choose another place if people have objections. Always.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yeah, as a vegetarian, the “they have great wings argument” is NOT a selling point to me.

      How does your friend find a restaurant without vegetables? (Just curious – do you have to go places that have a burger and fries option? …)

      1. ginger ale for all*

        Usually places will leave off vegetables from sandwich choices. She will eat potatoes, onions, and lettuce but that’s about it. Places where they prepare batches of food all at once (like certain Chinese food restaurants in my area tend to be trickier).

  36. Looby*

    I think Alison and the OP are wrong in this case. This was not an official college event. It was a bunch of students who decided to throw a party and invite their fellow students and teachers. The only thing they did wrong was tease the students who chose not to come.

    If I organise a party at Hooters and invite everyone in my office to attend, is that inappropriate? No, it’s not. It’s not a company event, I’m not forcing you to attend. It’s my party and I’ll hold it where I want. If you object to the location, stay home.

    1. fposte*

      That’s an interesting breakdown. I’m kind of with you on the “it’s fine for individuals to hold personal parties wherever they like,” but I think if you’ve invited the whole class and the faculty, it’s class-related enough that it’s a problem. Faculty would likely catch hell for participating in that at my university.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, and that’s still the kind of thing that gets cited in harassment/hostile workplace lawsuits as part of the evidence of an overall sexualized atmosphere. It doesn’t matter that it’s a personal party if most of your colleagues are invited.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Also, these are potential future colleagues and co-workers, as part of a cohort who are working closely together in a field (even if it’s the training part of a field). If it were a small group of students who had become friends, that would be OK. But the professors are saying the three aren’t team players – and they might be potential references for anyone in the class. This makes it Not OK.

      3. Adam*

        Yeah, this kind of falls into my notion that you can do whatever you like (legalities considered of course) but society is going to have something to say about it and you have to be ready to deal with that regardless of whether it’s fair or not.

        Should an HR professional be able to attend a party at Hooter’s without getting in trouble over it? In my opinion, absolutely. But I also think a school teacher shouldn’t be fired because she goes out to a bar on the weekend and has a glass of wine and a parent saw her and posted her picture on Facebook for all to see and thus riling a community to question her morality and personal life, but it’s happened. Sometimes you have take into account the realities of the world and be a little extra careful.

        1. Adam*

          Clarifying: I meant an HR professional going to a Hooter’s on their own time, not in a work event context.

    2. Elysian*

      If I organise a party at Hooters and invite everyone in my office to attend, is that inappropriate? No, it’s not. It’s not a company event, I’m not forcing you to attend.

      I disagree, and would say yes that is inappropriate. It is less inappropriate if you invite everyone in your office, as well as everyone at your church and everyone in your bowling club and everyone you went to college with. Then its much less of a “work” function. But if you only invite the office, you have made an “office” event, even if it isn’t officially sanctioned. Honestly, as a female professional, if a person in my office did this and the bosses were ok with this (as it appears the professors were in the OP’s letter) that signals to me that my office things its ok to sexualize women as a company. And if we’re all ok making a big work statement about staring at boobs at Joe’s going away party (or whatever) my impressions are (1) I will not go to events like this because they make me uncomfortable so I will lose opportunities to network and will look like “not a team player” and (2) I will feel self-conscious about being objectified or discriminated against by the people in my office who make important decisions, because they have approved of an atmosphere that sexualizes women. I will be on high alert for other things that indicate discrimination against women and that is an uncomfortable working environment.

      Maybe this is an extreme position – I really do not like these types of establishments – but it doesn’t become ok just because its not a party thrown by the boss or its not an “officially sanctioned” work event. I wouldn’t assume you would be fired over it, but it is still really inappropriate in my mind. You’re signaling really bad things to coworkers who feels the same way I do, and I don’t think that’s an insignificant number of people.

    3. Artemesia*

      A party for students in a program or a party for colleagues is a ‘work event’ in the sense of sexual harassment. This thing was organized for a school program and those are the only people involved.

    4. Partly Cloudy*

      I think this (the situation that the OP wrote about) falls under “not wrong, but not smart.”

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        For a bit more detail, I do think that it was wrong to tease the people who didn’t attend.

    5. Observer*

      You don’t get to invite people to something that will obviously make some percentage of them uncomfortable and then harass them when they make their discomfort be known. And you certainly do NOT get to call them “not a team player”!

      The key here is that this was not a private person, or even a couple of people, throwing a party to which co-workers were invited, no pressure. This was a CLASS event (ie a WORK event) being organized for the group. And people were clearly pressured to attend – do much so that failure to do so resulted in further harassment. Adult themed entertainment is NOT appropriate for WORK events. Organizing WORK events at venues that make a significant proportion of reasonable people uncomfortable is not appropriate for work events. Criticizing the work ethic / performance (ie calling them not a team player) for refusing to participate is not appropriate, but clearly proves that this was not just a social event that some of the students just decided to chill out with but a group event related to their work.

    1. Panda Bandit*

      I think even Don Draper wouldn’t be so boorish as to hold a work event there.

    2. Panda Bandit*

      I think even Don Draper wouldn’t be boorish enough to have a work event there.

  37. Mena*

    Those that didn’t attend were teased/called out on it? Awesome!!! These would-be junior HR professionals are bullies in addition to sexist.

    Your boyfriend is quite wrong. You mention ‘older’ – is that supposed to suggest that he is more mature or a seasoned professional? LoL!!!

  38. Ed*

    I do agree with OP’s boyfriend about events like going to strip clubs being potential bonding experiences with clients and managers/coworkers. How prevalent it is partially depends on the industry but it happens a little everywhere. As a male, I’ve been on many group business trips and it is a completely different experience when women attend. When there are no women in the group, it often becomes a wild event to be talked about for years. These trips can be bonding experiences for those who are included. I never personally did anything outrageous on a business trip (though witnessed quite a few things I’ve never repeated) but my career has definitely benefited simply from attending. As a direct result of these trips, I am “buddies” with male managers/directors several pay grades above mine who I have never previously associated with at work.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Do you not see something wrong with excluding a particular group from career enhancing opportunities and networking? I’m sure it’s not deliberate but the effects and impact are that women who don’t want to visit strip clubs get less opportunity to bond with senior management, and that’s very damaging to gender equality in the workplace.

    2. Ad Astra*

      So your career has benefited from bonding with clients at strip clubs, but your activities are drastically different when women attend the business trips? Which means they don’t get the same opportunity to bond with clients and rub elbows with managers and directors, right? And this is ok with you?

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I wondered the same thing. Also, these people do not sound like people I would like to work with or even know.

    3. Sarah*

      Woah. I might be mis-reading, but you sound like you think that this is a good thing?

      So this is why it’s a problem. Guys have to be ok with “wild events” so their career benefits in ways that you say the women you work with will never have. What about guys who for whatever reason don’t want to do those kinds of things, for moral, religious or personal reasons? What about gay men?

      Or, to put it another way. If management was predominantly female, or gay, how happy would you be, knowing that other junior women, or gay men and women, were getting career advantages you could never get? How about it if was because they shared the same religion? If you knew that whatever you did, however you worked, you would be excluded from their events, and so not have the chances they had, and be looked on as a killjoy who they don’t want to come on events, would that make you feel differently?

      1. Elysian*

        Exactly… this isn’t a good thing. I have so many, many concerns with this situation. I just don’t even know where to start. Your comment is a good start. Just… so many things.

        1. Sarah*

          Thank you! I had to re-write it 3 times because of not really knowing how to explain this!

          1. Elysian*

            Its a situation that only benefits white straight men who are comfortable with “wild” times. It’s a small group in the whole of things, but its the group that has traditionally held the business power. And that needs to change. Ugh.

    4. Artemesia*

      This is a perfect and classic discussion of why male bonding events like this are wildly inappropriate. This is one of the many ways in which women have their careers damaged by sexist practices in the workplace.

    5. MashaKasha*

      Must be nice to have the right set of genitals to attend work events that one’s career definitely benefits from.

    6. AnonAcademic*

      The fact that things only get “wild” when women aren’t around suggests the men involved are fully aware that their behavior is inappropriate for the workplace. This is great fodder for a sex discrimination lawsuit. Especiallhy since you explicitly are aware that being male has benefitted your career in a way that is not accessible to your female colleagues.

    7. The Strand*

      Come on, really think about what you’re saying here.

      You can put everyone on an exciting retreat in a new place, take them out to a theme restaurant or an activity that is accessible for everyone, and still make it an event to remember.

      You can do it without excluding women or going to a strip club, or “going wild”.

      Again, really think about what you’re saying here. Would you suggest that the dynamic would be better on a group business trip without any openly gay people? or African-Americans? Or if we don’t have to take Frank, who has a disability and requires a wheelchair t0 get around? How is that different from enjoying a “bonding experience” with clients and coworkers who are all male, and your suggestion (along with the boyfriend’s) that this is superior for career and friendships?

      It’s also interesting that you feel no qualms about your career benefiting from an event you could only engage in because you happened to fit “the profile”. But what if it was your mom, your sister, or your wife or girlfriend who lost out on a career turning point because she had the wrong equipment downstairs?

      “It happens a little everywhere” is something you’re trying to convince yourself of because it will make you feel better about a behavior widely disapproved of professionally. Publishing, education, engineering, nursing, retail and many other fields have millions of members. You won’t see many of these members routinely engaging in “professional antics” at strip clubs, or hosting “wild events”. It is more common in BigLaw, oil and gas, Wall Street, tech (especially angel investing as we learned from the Pao lawsuit) and historically during certain conferences (such as CES in Las Vegas) .

      If you want to only associate with other men outside of work, you have that right. But it is inappropriate in this day and age to wish for a time when men were men and women were unseen and unheard in the workplace. Hosting or participating in a professional event that excludes an entire group of people is tantamount to that.

    8. Observer*

      Thank you for so clearly explaining the problem with “bonding events” at bars, strip clubs, etc. and why the are clearly and definitely discriminatory.

    9. phillist*

      This response is exactly what’s wrong with all of this.

      I won’t go into detail, because I can’t possibly be nice about it.

    10. Panda Bandit*

      Thanks for making career opportunities harder to obtain for everyone who isn’t a heterosexual man! This is sarcasm, btw, since you seem to have trouble with reading comprehension.

    11. Ed*

      For the record, I am NOT saying this is “right” or bragging about it but it is a fact of life. It happens to an extent in many industries and not just when it benefits men (though it probably benefits straight men much more than any other group). If you were one of the very few men in a company of almost all women, the men would be excluded to an extent. It wouldn’t necessarily be on purpose but it would naturally happen if left unchecked. It’s just the way life works. Obviously corporate culture should try to fight this but when the majority group is the one that benefits, things are probably going to swing towards them.

  39. Rae*

    Lets take sex out of the picture here and say we’re talking about Red Lobster and 3 of 30 people in the party are allergic to shellfish.

    Those allergic bring it up and say, “you know what, we’d probably be safe but it’s not worth the aggravation for us”

    You’d have to be a real arse to say no, we won’t change the venue. The difference here is the reaction from the party planners is in the respect for others. 1/10th of the group did not feel that this was a good idea. That should of been enough for people to stop and think, rather than digging their heels in. This is very much something that they can accommodate.

    I believe there was previous article somewhere about how the boss may want to choose somewhere other than a steakhouse for the company dinner when he has a large number of vegetarian staff. Does he have to? No. But he can just as easily get his steak at “chain restaurant not steakhouse”. There are reasonable accommodations to the problem. Not every problem can be solved. Gluten free people may not be able to enjoy any restaurant. But you know what? When I worked with someone GF we always went to the same one where she could eat…even when we had 20-30 people. When the department had a party and fed nearly 200 people they went with the restaurant that wasn’t the best but could safely feed the 2-3 people with dietary needs. Even in a huge number, they did right by everyone.

    Part of the concept of a hostile environment is the idea that you have knowledge but purposefully decide against something that parties in the group have expressed are a no-go.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I just thought of an example that was given to me back in December. The December holiday party was planned by a partner’s wife. She chose to schedule a Friday night party at a place called “Meat” that was a significant distance from the location of the firm (I think we can guess what the focus is.) Three employees are vegetarians, one is an Orthodox Jew, and many commute into the city from outlying suburbs to work (and are dependent on trains that would be especially busy during the holiday season). Can anyone spot the multiple reasons that this planning didn’t work out so that everyone could attend?

      And the person who told me this wondered why the event couldn’t be planned at one of the many restaurants closer to work during a weekday. If the firm wanted to spend money on a meal, she was just as happy with lunch or a weeknight dinner.

      1. Sarah*

        Or, as I said above, and came up in a different post recently, what if it was an outing to a religious event that you had to partake in?

        1. Rae*

          I brought up the Yoga from a new-age studio as in my area Christianity is rather marginalized. However, the yoga and new age are seen as just “cool”. It was very uncomfortable and inappropriate in my opinion to say “2 hr meditation & anti stress” and go home early or work the remaining 4 hours of the day. I chose to work, but there were alot of co-workers who thought I was nuts for not taking the easy out.

          That said, I did not tell anyone that I was uncomfortable with the new age studio, so it’s entirely different. If I had, I would of expected that some accommodation be made either allowing me to learn stress relief techniques that were of my own faith, or ones that were wholly secular. Since I am at work to work, I didn’t mind just working and forgoing the whole debacle.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            I’m sure I can just google this so don’t reply if you are uncomfortable but how does yoga and meditation violate your religion? Many workplaces offer yoga classes so I’m surprised to hear this. Is it because meditation has Buddhist origins? I always thought “put your intentions into the world” was a an all inclusive secular thing where people who were religious would pray while the non-religious would “send good vibes.” Kind of like having a moment of silence instead of a group prayer.

      2. Rae*

        Yeah, this would come off to me as doing something so as to exclude people, not necessarily those who didn’t eat meat but more likely those who couldn’t commit a Friday night to go do something. (ie those with kids) It’s careless and thoughtless and I would be mortified if I did that to someone.

        Heck, we have a team of 20 and one is a vegetarian and another is allergic to dairy. At pot lucks we work together to make sure there is plenty they can eat. It’s professional courtesy. We don’t have to accommodate them, but we do because it’s part of human decency.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          Also, as was pointed out to me: who wants to spend Friday night in December adding an extra 2-3 hours to their commute home on top of the time going to dinner? (Most would have to take a different train or taxi to the restaurant. The firm did offer to pay for taxis if I remember correctly, but you still have a lot of rescheduling to do. And when a key person has to be home before sundown on the day chosen, that’s ridiculous.) She was pretty sure that the person scheduling just wanted to try a hot new restaurant and wasn’t thinking about the logistics for the actual attendees at all.

          1. fposte*

            Wait, did you change your name mid-post or do we have one person posting as Charlotte Lucas and one as Charlotte Collins? You deserve better, Charlotte!

    2. Saurs*

      I understand your point, but taking the “sex” out of the issue changes it too significantly to make a useful analogy.

      Being a woman* is not like having a food allergy. People with food allergies are not a protected class. There is not a long and storied history of inhibiting the rights and political, social, and economic progress of people with food allergies. There are no industries designed to sexualize or objectify people with food allergies (I imagine if there were, it would involve sprinkling them with gluten or something crunchy and red and laughing maniacally at their discomfort, or something equally sadistic).

      *some women LOVE HOOTERS!!!1! Let us not forget these brave and chill souls.

  40. De (Germany)*

    “He argues that in certain fields you need to have these kinds of bonding experiences to develop strong work/client relationships that bind when push comes to shove during a work situation.”

    And obviously, strong bonds between coworkers or clients can only be achieved through looking at boobs.

    Awesome. Women have no place in these “strong relationships”, I suppose?

  41. Bailey*

    I would definitely feel uncomfortable going to a “breastaurant” or a strip club for a professional gathering.

  42. Paul*

    I don’t think it was an official school event. A few students decided to have a party and invited everyone – both classmates and professors. Assuming they didn’t use the school’s money to pay for it, it’s social “after work” (in school form) thing and attendance was voluntary. Yes, in theory, people should be sensitive enough not to give those specific 3 people grief about “missing out” the next day, but it’s a lot smaller of a deal than the OP made it to be.

    I’m thinking of something similar if this happened to me – if most of my coworkers want to go to a gay bar for a Christmas party during non-work time, using their own money, and I’m uncomfortable, me opting out would simply be that. There would not be any “great injustices” or “totally not okay’s”, it’s simply people choosing to socialize at a place I’m uncomfortable with.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      But once they invited everyone involved in the program (including faculty and admin staff), they made it a de facto professional event. Also, I think that some people are seeing this like when you’re an undergrad and invite a bunch of people you know to a party. Professional and post-graduate programs have different expectations. You aren’t just seen as fellow students; you are colleagues. So, they are in a bit of a gray area, but I think that you could compare it to if people in the local version of a professional organization you might belong to did something similar. You aren’t co-workers, but you are related in a professional capacity.

      1. Paul*

        Charlotte: I don’t really know about the the closeness of the class along with professors. I agree, they ARE colleagues. I’m imagining this as an after-work event among colleagues. I think if it takes places outside of work time and place, and all are using personal money, it’s no longer a professional event, it’s a personal social event. The organizers were nice enough to invite everyone, but this is still a voluntary social event after class/work, with no threats of penalization for not attending.

        1. Rae*

          Paul- I disagree. Unless an event is not tied to work at all then there is an underlying current work approves. If the event is not done by “Teapot INC” but the employees are using work time and work emails/phones to co-ordinate then there is an unofficial approval of this occurrence. Not only that, but there’s also the idea that you represent your company wilst on your own time if in a huge group of people you work with. There’s a difference between a few guys and gals who agree to grab a drink after work and a couple dozen people from Teapots INC headed by Fergus reserving a section.

          1. Paul*

            Rae: I understand that it’s bad form to use work time and work Email to coordinate personal things, but people do. If there’s a problem somewhere, it’s that, and not “this is a work approved event”. If using work resources makes it “official”, my car may “officially” belong to my employer, because I searched for it and Emailed them during work hours, using work machine. I did however buy the car after work, using my personal money. I know, bad form using work resources to do personal things, but it’s pretty clear this is a “personal” thing.

            You’re right about the reservation thing too – this is a small detail, but if the reservation says “Teapot Inc”, it may cross the line. But not if it says “Fergus, party of 30”.

            1. Rae*

              While you probably shouldn’t of purchased a car wilst on work time (we’re not talking about lunch-breaks) it would be disingenuous to say that it was the employees because of this. It may give a bad impression to Joe Dealer who realizes you are contacting him during work hours, but Joe Dealer cares about a sale and at that point you don’t really represent your company…so unless Joe Dealer’s son wants to work under you, it really dosn’t matter.

              This would be more like emailing the Honda dealer using your work email and appearing to represent the company, and showing up to the dealer during work hours (not on lunch) with two of your co-workers in the company emblazoned polo giving the impression that you were representing the company. You never said that you represent Teapot INC, but it’d be easy to jump to that conclusion…and that was the reason for you going to the dealer.

              Co-workers, especially newer or younger ones may feel unduly pressured to attend because “everyone in the office is” and it’s in an official email. There is something officially- unofficial about it

              *side note–lets say that during your search you discovered a glitch in cars.com that allowed you to buy a car for 50% off. That discovery would be considered the intellectual property of your employer in many workplaces that have contracts. So you couldn’t tell your wife/sister/best friend. While it probably wouldn’t be relevant in Teapot INC such discoveries “unrelated” to work still have been challenged when the industry is smaller and tighter think a cotton related discovery (that could affect teabags).

              1. Paul*


                I don’t think it’s like that at all. I assume the call for Hooter reservation was using personal cell phones because there’s no reason to use a school pay phone, and did not indicate “Teapot Inc” in caller ID, unlike work Email. I also assume they didn’t show up to the restaurant during work /school hours, or wear their school shirts. So no, I don’t think it’s like that at all.

                Yes, coworkers feel pressured by being invited to social events they’d prefer not to go for any specific reason. That’s just life, I don’t think others are “wrong” for having a party at Hooters or inviting those people who don’t want to go, just like it’s not “wrong” for you to not want to go. But yes, there shouldn’t be additional pressure if you indicate you’d rather not go.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But you’re defining this quite differently than how most employers and courts define it — they generally agree that what you’re calling “personal events” have work ramifications and can be subjected to the same standards when you’re inviting work people.

        2. Zahra*

          Well, being mocked for not coming and being called out as not being a team player does constitute penalization for not attending.

          And, if everyone is invited, including the professors (or managers, as the case may be), it does constitute a work event. After all, you wouldn’t exclude one person because that would constitute bad workplace relationship management, right?

    2. neverjaunty*

      No, it really isn’t a “lot smaller deal” that a bunch of people picked a sexualized venue for a work-related event, then bullied people who voiced objections to it.

      1. Paul*

        I don’t think bullying was involved – it was with an understanding that people are welcome to opt out. I agree that they shouldn’t be given grief such as “Oh you guys missed out on a great party”, but “bullying”? I don’t think it’s a work-related event at all. It’s using personal money, during off-work times. It’s a social thing.

        1. Sarah*

          The OP mentions they were pressurised to go, mocked for their reasons and mocked afterwards for not going – it wasn’t “not your bag? Cool! Let’s go for coffee another time too”

          1. Paul*

            I’m pretty sure OP didn’t mention anything about mocking. Pressuring, yes. But by peers, not bosses/professors. I actually think it’s a good lesson to learn in school on how to handle situations like this, before attending the work place.

            1. Sarah*

              Yeah – how to handle situations like this = don’t set them up! I actually can’t believe the tutors didn’t take the organisers aside and explain why this is a crazy idea.

              The majority of workplaces, anywhere in the world, would not think going to a breastaurant for a work do is a good idea, so it’s a huge shame the organisers, and people who mocked and belittled the people who don’t want to go, didn’t get a chance to learn this lesson. Here’s hoping they learn it very soon, before they take the “sexualisation of female employees is A-OK” (“as long as the wings are good” *eyeroll*) to the courts for their future employers….

              1. Paul*

                Again, nobody was mocked. The OP didn’t say anything about mocking, that occurred in your imagination. It’s not a “good” or “bad” idea to go to a breastaurant after work using your own time and money, it’s just a neutral idea. “Sexualization of female employees is A-OK”? Only the ones who agree to it, up front, in exchange for tips.

                1. zora*

                  She said the word ‘teased’. What do you see as the difference between being ‘teased’ and ‘mocked’?

                2. Paul*

                  According to dictionary.com, the difference is that:
                  tease is “…. in a playful way”, mock is “…. in a contemptuous manner”.

                3. zora*

                  So, you are therefore saying it’s not a big deal since they were only being teased, but if they were being mocked that would be completely different? I think you are creating a semantic bright line here that is not really reflective of reality and how people talk to each other.

                4. Sarah*

                  She said they were teased, and belittled, and made to feel stupid, which is the same as being mocked. Friendly mutual teasing is a very different thing, and doesn’t involve making people feel stupid for having their views, or that if they have their views, they can’t be part of the mainstream.

                5. Paul*

                  Zora: No, I’m not saying anything – you asked a specific question, I answered it for you. I think you’re the one playing semantics, not me.

                  Sarah: Again, OP didn’t say mocked, she also didn’t say belittled, or made to feel stupid. I think all those things happened in your imagination.

                6. Elysian*

                  If she hadn’t felt the like the teasing was inappropriate, she wouldn’t have written in a letter asking for advice.

                7. zora*

                  But you keep pointing to people’s use of the word ‘mocked’ as the reason they are wrong. You have focused on that word, I am trying to point out that by focusing on that word I think you are missing the arguments everyone is making.

                8. Paul*

                  Zora: Because the situation really wasn’t as bad as being mocked for not wanting to attend Hooters. People like to exaggerate things, using words like bullying, made to feel stupid, mocked, etc. And I’m just trying to keep things non-biased according to what the OP posted, without putting additional personal spin on top of it.

                9. MsM*

                  Right, and the OP says they were teased. Which, according to the thesaurus, is a synonym for “mocked,” so your hairsplitting about her language choices is entirely your own subjective interpretation of the situation. Especially when she’d have no reason to write in if she didn’t see it as all that bad. I’m sure you’re getting a kick out of playing devil’s advocate, but this is just getting ridiculous.

                10. Sarah*

                  Paul: genuinely, if her friends hadn’t felt bad, why would she be writing the letter? If “mocked” is such a bad word for you, swap it for “belittled”. I’m confused why you are going so far to defend this, when three people *felt really bad* about a) the decision to have it in Hooters, b) the reaction they received when they tried to explain why they felt bad, c) the reaction they received when they said they weren’t going, including being laughed and and belittled, and d) the reaction they received after they didn’t go, when it was made clear they weren’t part of the group.

                  Or, turning it on it’s head – why do YOU think it’s ok to listen to someone explain their beliefs on why they don’t want to attend something and make them feel bad about it, and the establishment join in in making them feel bad for speaking up? Is it only ok because it’s about an establishment that sexualises women? If it was a religious thing like previous recent letters that people wanted to enforce attendance at, would that be ok?

                11. zora*

                  Paul: so it’s ok to tease them about it? That is what you are implying when you say the word ‘mocked’ is not correct.

                12. Paul*

                  MsM: Because “Mocked” is a harsher word than “teased”, if the OP wanted to say they were mocked, she’d use that word. “I’m sure you’re getting a kick out of exaggeration and outraging, but this is getting ridiculous”

                  Sarah: Again, no mentions of “belittled” either. Those are the verbs you used as interpretations. While I’m not condoning the pressure to ask someone to go to Hooters more than once, but they way you’re describing the behavior is very different from the OP’s, maybe you’re adding some details in your mind that I’m not aware of. The 3 people had the rights to speak up without feeling bad, I don’t think anyone here is blaming those 3 people for anything.

                  Zora: I’m actually not saying anything. All I’m saying is that they weren’t mocked, as the comments described above.

                13. zora*

                  There is no reason to play the ‘word selection correction’ game unless you are implying that it changes their argument.

                14. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t understand why we’re debating the word unless there’s a point being made about the difference. Since it sounds like there’s not, I’m going to ask that we move on.

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        Since they’re supposed to be HR professionals, I’d say that’s the bigger deal. (Both are big deals, but the reaction to reasonable objections concerns me more. You can make a bad judgement call, but when it’s pointed out to you, don’t double down and bully people over their objections.)

        1. Paul*

          HR professional during work hours, normal human beings during off-work hours outside of work, socializing with whoever they want. If your biggest point is their attitude towards objections during work hours, then I see you have a point – dismissing someone’s discomfort is un-HR like. The “HR” response should’ve been “I understand your discomfort, this is a voluntary non-official event, you’re welcome to not join”. But I don’t think the “issue” is the Hooters thing at all. Again, social event, after class, outside of school, using their own personal money.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think that you’re looking at this as if it’s very black and white, “if it’s officially sponsored by work or school, then it’s an official event but otherwise all bets are off” … and that’s just not how this works or how courts see it! There’s a long history of women being professionally excluded because they weren’t invited to their male colleagues’ outings to strip clubs (and golf games, and more), and dealing with what was found to be discrimination and/or hostile work environment from those sorts of activities. There have been court cases stemming from that kind of boys-club atmosphere, even when it’s not “official” work events.

            There’s just not the sort of bright line that I think you’re envisioning.

            1. Paul*

              I can see your point. Since I don’t know much about those law suits, can you shed some lights on how they turn out? It’s pretty easy to sue someone, it may be a bit harder to convince courts you’re being “discriminated against” during social events after work.

              1. neverjaunty*

                If you don’t know much about those lawsuits then why are you opining as if you do?

                ‘Hostile work environment’ is a real thing.

                1. Paul*

                  Because I assume this is a forum where all can share their opinions. If the forum mod specifically wants comments from people with lawsuits knowledge, they would’ve dictated it. “Hostile work environment” is a real thing, so is “freedom of assembly after work”.

                2. Elysian*

                  Freedom of assembly is a right you have vis a vis the government. If you make the stupid decision to invite all your work colleagues to Hooters, and then “tease” them when they don’t go, and then your boss finds out, Boss is entirely within her rights to fire you for your incredibly poor decision-making.

                  So to the extent that you can freely assemble at Hooters, you can do so after being kicked out of the HR training program or after being fired from your job. That doesn’t mean you are exempt from the repercussion of that inappropriate behavior.

                3. Paul*

                  That is correct, but we were in the thread about lawsuits with the US courts. Yes, boss (professor) is within her rights to fire you – or join the event, as indicated by OP.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But if your professor joins the event, the school needs to be prepared for it to be cited in a sexual discrimination or hostile workplace lawsuit down the road. And thus would be reasonable in telling the professor that it wasn’t okay to do.

                  But taking the law totally out of it, why on earth would you want to do something in a work or school related context that’s widely understood to feel non-inclusive and degrading to a large number of people?

                  Seriously, why? I don’t think anyone defending this has explained that yet.

                  The only answers I can come up with are that (1) you don’t care about taking actions that feel non-inclusive and degrading to a large number of people, or (2) you think those people are wrong to feel that way, so you’re going to just act as if they don’t, regardless of the impact on them and on your school or organization, and regardless of the long and well-established history of dominant groups excluding and harming non-dominant groups through exactly this type of boys club mentality.

                  Is there something I’m missing?

                5. Elysian*

                  What people are saying is that this event could contribute to a hostile work environment if it were done in a workplace, which is is illegal. So professors [managers] would not have a right to go to Hooters with their students [employees] – that could constitute a hostile work environment. Simplistically, they are not “within their rights” to join the event, because this type of event could create an illegal hostile work environment. You do not have a “Right” to do something illegal.

                6. Paul*

                  Alison: Because not all people feel Hooters is degrading. Non-inclusive? Sure, but that’s like going to a BBQ restaurant being non-inclusive to vegetarians. Having some vegetarian/cheese dishes is non-inclusive to vegans, you fix that and it’ll be non-inclusive to people who only eat organic, etc. People will always be “non-inclusive” in some way a non-dominant group will not approve of, I assume this has nothing to do with boys club mentality. Understanding this is an HR class, I assume boys are actually a minority.
                  PS, I RSS your posts and read every morning, keep up the good work.

                7. Paul*

                  Elysian: Yes, I agree this event “could” contribute to hostile work place, whether it does is up to interpretation. Anything “could” contribute to hostile work place – if I did enough mental acrobatics, I can figure out how your last comment “could” contributed to hostile work place if I worked with you.

                  Assuming it does, then you’re correct, they do not have the rights to do that. And assuming it doesn’t, then they do have the rights. The logic is pretty simple.

                8. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But I’m not arguing that everyone finds Hooters degrading; I’m saying that it’s widely understood that a large percentage of people do. Given that, why would you want to do something in a work-related context that’s widely looked at that way, and which is widely understood to feel non-inclusive, unwelcoming, and degrading — not by you, but by many people, some of whom are likely to be among your coworkers?

                  On hostile workplace: it’s actually not true that anything could contribute to that. It’s a legal term that’s specifically tied to sex, race, religion, and other protected characteristics. Going to sexualized environments is widely established to be something that raises hostile workplace concerns; we’re not stretching here to make that statement!

                  (And thank you for the nice words about my site!)

                9. neverjaunty*

                  Certainly all can share their opinions. The question is why you would want to offer an uninformed opinion, and then retreat into “well gosh I’m just uninformed” when your opinion is notably wrong.

                10. Paul*

                  Neverjaunty: I’m pretty sure I never share any opinions on any court cases. You’re sharing your opinions on how I shouldn’t share mine – do you know about rocket science? Yes, your accusations IS that ludicrous.

                11. Paul*

                  Allison: I agree that it’s bad form to invite all people to a place where it’s widely understood that not all people are comfortable there. But I still think they’re within their rights to, during off-hours using their own money, and it’s a lot smaller of a deal than the rest of the commenters suggest. Obviously that’s up to the court to decide, if something like that ever comes up.

                12. AW*

                  why on earth would you want to do something in a work or school related context that’s widely understood to feel non-inclusive and degrading to a large number of people?

                  It looks like the answer is #2 + “I insist on pretending that any action outside of work doesn’t impact my job and my employer can’t and won’t do or say anything about it.”

                13. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Paul, I would encourage you to learn more about our society’s long history of non-dominant demographic groups being harmed through this kind of thing. I think you’ll feel differently if you really explore that.

  43. TotesMaGoats*

    While I don’t like Hooters, the food or what they do, the outrage over this seems a bit much.

    This wasn’t a school sanctioned event. They don’t work together. People had the choice to attend or not. The faculty, by their attendance, may have construed school support but that’s a stretch. Classmates had finished and program and wanted to celebrate. They decided to not find a mutually agreeable place. End of story.

    The biggest issue is that people raised a concern and were dismissed for it. That sucks and their concern was completely valid. They shouldn’t have been given a hard time about not going or complaining but it’s a party you could choose to not go to.

    I would be upset if this was: a work event, a school sanctioned event, grades were dependent on attending

    1. LBK*

      What constitutes “school-sanctioned” in this case? If the entire team including professors was invited and there was no other event scheduled to celebrate the end of the program, this sounds like an official celebration to me even if it was organized by students. This isn’t like throwing your own separate party with just your closest colleagues, in which case I’d be more inclined to agree that it’s not the business of anyone else what venue it’s at.

      1. Paul*

        “School sanctioned” event is constituted by official use of school resources – such as mentioning it on the school’s website, news-flyer, or partially being paid by the school’s money.

        1. Elysian*

          That’s a pretty narrow definition. My boss is taking my whole office out for cocktails next week, which he’ll pay for using his money, and we’re going after work. So he isn’t using any office resources, but its definitely office/professionally-related and I’ll definitely be professionally penalized if I don’t attend. I think this is more about total context than control of resources.

          1. Paul*

            That’s kind of an obnoxious situation – being penalized if you don’t attend something your boss throws after work. I wish more people would simply say “sorry, I got children/pets/volunteering, and can’t attend this one, maybe next time”.

          2. TotesMaGoats*

            Actually, technically, Paul is correct. School sanctioned means money is involved either directly funding it or through advertisement.

            this doesn’t appear to be true for this case. Bad decision, sure. Horrific situation, no.

            1. Elysian*

              I disagree – in a school sense, if a sorority hazes its members, and the school knows about it and does nothing at all, it is basically school-sanctioned hazing, whether they spend money on it or not. If I run into my professor at a bar and he makes an aggressive pass at me, and I tell the administrator and he does nothing about it, that is school sanctioned sexual harassment and the school could be liable. Lawsuits were filed recently because universities turned a blind eye to professors/classes that pass athletes without having them do any work – that bad behavior was basically sanctioned by the school, even if they didn’t spend any money hosting it or advertising it. You can’t escape liability for something that goes on under your proverbial roof just because you didn’t pay for it.

    2. AW*

      This wasn’t a school sanctioned event. They don’t work together. People had the choice to attend or not.

      All of this is irrelevant. It was an event planned explicitly by the students for the students, professors, and staff. This exact situation (event planned by and for employees but not an official work event) was covered by the anti-harassment training I got in my first office job and they were very clear that THIS COUNTS.

      They suck at HR and they’re going to get their employer sued if this is how they handle issues like this.

    1. Paul*

      Yes, we’re talking about the ethics of this, regardless of the food. The place could’ve easily been “strip club” or “gay bar” – the main debate seems to be “Outside of work location and time, using personal money, but all are invited. Is this an official event?”

  44. Rat Racer*

    I am not trying to defend this as it is outrageous, but one of my company’s Asian offices organized the holiday party at Hooters. I am under the impression the organizer (the female office manager) truly did not realize how Hooters is marketed/operates in the US and saw it as a festive American restaurant (ala Hard Rock Cafe).

    1. Sarah*

      See, that’s where you take someone quietly aside and say “did you know…?”

      I think this could be something specifically about the USA – Hooters opened in my UK city, but closed pretty quickly because there just wasn’t the business – it’s a pretty narrow market. (So, the market is people who want to lech at women while they eat wings, but don’t want to go to a strip bar? I don’t understand how there’s a market anywhere for breastaurants anywhere, but it feels very USA-ian to have the main selling point as boobs, then pretend to be shocked that that’s why people go there. Maybe it’s a thing about the huge space, and the fact that there really are whole towns with only one place to eat, that in the much more compact Europe, we don’t get)

      1. neverjaunty*

        Right. The idea is that if you run an “adult entertainment venue”, you get to hire only pretty young girls as waitresses, BUT you have to comply with a lot of extra laws – most places in the US strongly regulate adult entertainment in a way they don’t regulate restaurants. So Hooters legally classifies itself as “adult entertainment”, but markets itself as a ‘family’ restaurant wink-wink so that people will go there without feeling like they’re the kind of people who would actually go to a strip bar.

  45. regina phalange*

    ever since I was taken on a date at Hooters and had to split the check, my opinion of it has downgraded to NEVER AGAIN, fair or not. sorry. kind of off topic.

  46. Chinook*

    “He argues that in certain fields you need to have these kinds of bonding experiences to develop strong work/client relationships that bind when push comes to shove during a work situation”

    I know I am late to the party, but I have to agree with OP’s boyfriend – some industries and locations do things differently. Case in point – most of my floor is currently at a Stampede party paid for by the company (though you have to buy your own alcohol). Some of the topic of conversation included the partying the night before at a different Stampede party and the amount of alcohol consumed as well as what was done (though it should be noted that a hangover during Stampede week is not ana cceptable excuse for not making it to work. Part of professionalism around here is knowing how to pace yourself).

    That being said, those of us who left after having our beef on a bun so we can catch up on work before or after being on vacation are not looked down upon or prized for our work ethic. Ditto for anyone who is a vegetarian or fasting for Ramadan (though sympathy is given for the hard situation they are put in). No comment is made about what you are drinking and I know half the group were just having water.

    But, if a colleague spoke up about how inappropriate this all is by their standards would be shunned in no time because they don’t understand the local culture. (for the record – those colleagues who visit during this week from elsewhere just marvel at what goes on here and suddenly udnerstand why so few emails get responded to during this period. Let’s just say there is a lot of networking taking place over pancakes, beef and drinks).

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