A Twofer

A former waitress has settled her lawsuit against Hooters, the restaurant that gave her a toy Yoda doll instead of the Toyota she thought she had won.

Jodee Berry, 27, won a beer sales contest last May at the Panama City Beach Hooters. She believed she had won a new Toyota and happily was escorted to the restaurant’s parking lot in a blindfold.

But when the blindfold was removed, she found she had won a new toy Yoda — the little green character from the Star Wars movies.

via USATODAY.com

Amazingly – given the way Hooters does its best to protect itself from the consequences of its management practices – Berry appears to have gotten what she wanted out of Gulf Coast Wings, Inc.:

“She’s satisfied with it,” said the attorney, David Noll. He did say that Berry can now go to a local car dealership and “pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants.”

[…]

“I think that’s a recognition of the fact that there’s been such an amazing amount of attention focused on this case,” he said. “There’s not a whole lot of reason to try to hide its existence.”

via Free Republic

There are two reasons why this joke as originally perpetrated “isn’t funny” (and, no, I don’t hate pranks – I absolutely adore this April Fool’s joke. And this one, too.)

1. Jokes are not an excuse to humiliate those over whom you have authority.

Jokes should be perpetrated against peers – those equal in power. Greater in power is okay – if the employees had pranked the manager, that would be a legit joke – but scamming an employee isn’t good clean fun. It’s abuse of authority.

It’s also a breach of trust. People need to be able to trust their employers or else they can’t effectively hold a job. Trust brings with it certain responsibilities. Joke or no joke, don’t humiliate the people who work for you. Especially not for doing exceptionally good work.

I think manager Jared Blair may find future employers are not eager to hire him. He cost Hooters more than just money.

2. Jokes are not an excuse to profit at the expense of someone’s hard work.

If the ‘contest’ had involved something totally random, that would be a joke. Making someone put in extra effort at work – to create profit for yourself, rather than her – is not a joke; it is fraud.

The Real Story

What’s really interesting & far more important  – and yet not being given wide press by those bothering to report this story – is this:

On Monday, Circuit Judge Glenn Hess heard a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on an employee handbook Berry signed when hired. The handbook says employees and the company must try to settle disputes through mediation or arbitration before going to lawsuits.

Hooters attorney Casey Rodgers argued that the suit should be taken out of the courts and sent to arbitration, or dismissed outright.

But Hess sided with Berry’s lawyer, Stephen West, who argued that the agreement wasn’t a contract, wasn’t binding and shouldn’t be enforced.

West pointed out that the handbook itself states that it isn’t a contract and is “subject to change by (Hooters) without notices.”

“Hooters has retained for itself the right not to be bound by the terms of its own arbitration agreement,” West told the judge. “They can’t have a contract when it favors them and not have a contract when it doesn’t favor them.”

Hess cited procedural and fairness issues in coming to his decision. He said most contracts are agreements between equals with the same power to “dicker” in their best interests.

Hooters’ handbook, on the other hand, is a “take or leave it” agreement in which an employee’s refusal to sign would probably lead to an employment offer being withdrawn. Berry, Hess wrote, was at an unfair disadvantage.

Hess wrote that Hooters now wants Berry held to an agreement that was never intended to bind the company.

“The long-standing rule of law is that unconscionable contracts will not be given effect,” Hess wrote. “The defendant’s motion, therefore, is denied.”

via Free Republic

Contracts that “bind you but not me” are a real pet peeve of mine.  I am glad to see one thrown out as “unconscionable”.

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