Philadelphia Employment Law News

Does 'Too Hot' Woman Have an EEOC Claim in an 'At Will' Employment State?

Recently, Lauren Odes claimed that she was fired for being "too hot" from the lingerie wholesaler where she worked. The New York Magazine also reported that Odes, with the help of her attorney, Gloria Allred, filed an EEOC complaint charging gender and religious discrimination.

One barrier to these types of claims is that all employment in Pennsylvania is "at will" unless there is a specific contract saying otherwise. What does that mean, you ask? It is exactly what it sounds like. At will employment means that you or your employer can end your employment at any time for any legal reason, without notice.

At will employment allows you the freedom to switch jobs when you find a better opportunity. It also gives employers the freedom to get rid of an employee that is harming productivity.

There are, of course, exceptions to "at will" employment. These exceptions are based on one's civil rights and certain laws and public policy. If you are fired because of your race, gender, age, or disability, you may have a claim for wrongful termination.

So back to Ms. Odes' conundrum. First, New York is also an "at will" employment state. Since Odes was terminated in an "at will" state, she needs an exception to win her claim. Her best bet is the statement from her supervisor that she was "just too hot for this office." This statement is likely to be interpreted as something that would only be mentioned to a female. If it is, then there is a chance for the gender discrimination claim to stand.

Ms. Odes will be in trouble if an office handbook containing a dress code appears. With a clear legal reason for termination, Odes' claim would be on shaky ground. This is because in an "at will" state, as long as the termination was for a reason that is not prohibited by law, there is no recourse for a fired employee. So, all that Odes employer Native Intimates needs to show is that they ended Odes' employment for any reason other than her gender or religion.

To sum it up, "at will" employment leaves you with very few options when you are laid off or fired, but it will not allow employers to discriminate against you. It is yet to be seen whether being fired for being "too hot" is the same thing as discrimination.

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