Two former female employees of the Orland Park restaurant Twin Peaks — which has a flesh-based business model akin to Hooters — say their bosses went too far by forcing them to wear bikinis and lingerie, subjecting them to body evaluations and ordering them to change in full view of kitchen staff.
The discrimination and harassment allegations were laid out in complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The behavior is commonplace in a corporate culture approved by Twin Peaks’ ownership, attorney Tamara Holder, who is representing several of the women, said Thursday.
Sarah Blaylock, 29, and Daryll Rodriguez, 24, who worked as bartenders, both filed complaints.
And the women were threatened with termination when they raised concerns about it, she said.
“Twin Peaks’ business model baits young women into wearing one uniform, then after they’re hired, orders them to wear crop-tops, bikinis and lingerie,” Holder said. “Twin Peaks is engaging in disgusting, systemic abuse of young women across the country. Many of the young women are still in high school, others are trying to pay college tuition. They signed up to work at a ‘family-friendly’ restaurant, not a strip joint.”
A third female employee, Jessica Mercer, 19, missed the 300-day window in which she was allowed to file an EEOC complaint. But plans to join a breach of contract class action lawsuit being drawn up by Holder that, she says, is set to contain the names of employees from around the country that were treated the same way.
“Literally the phone is ringing off the phone right now with women calling me,” Holder said Thursday.
Twin Peaks CEO Joe Hummel called the claims “outrageous” in a statement emailed on Thursday to the Chicago Sun-Times.
“Twin Peaks does not tolerate any type of harassment or discrimination and has strict policies and training practices in place to make sure every guest and employee is treated equally and with great respect,” he said.
“We look forward to vigorously defending ourselves against these outrageous and baseless allegations. Since this is an ongoing legal matter, it would be inappropriate to discuss further specifics.”
In her complaint, Blaylock, who was hired before the Orland Park restaurant’s opening in 2016, said she was okay with the uniform she was initially told to wear.
The uniform: short shorts and a shirt that exposed cleavage and a small portion of her midriff.
But things changed six months in when management began “dress-up days” that called for “clothing similar to what one might see in a strip club,” she says in the complaint.
Blaylock says she was told “If you don’t like it, you can leave.”
“I feared I would lose my job if I did not comply with the dress-up days, despite feeling uncomfortable,” she said.
Another disturbing change: before each shift management began lining women up against a wall and giving each a grade on how taut and toned their bodies were. Women with better grades received more lucrative table assignments, complaints allege.
The women were required to buy, out of their own pockets, lingerie and string bikinis and text pictures from dressing rooms to their bosses so they could decide if garments were revealing enough for work, Blaylock alleges.
Orland Park police issued citations against several female employees because their clothes showed too much skin.
When the women asked about the citations, they were told “Do not worry about it. We handled it,” Blaylock said in the complaint.
However, an attorney hired by Twin Peaks had pleaded Blaylock and other women guilty and paid their fines without ever telling them, the complaint alleges — leaving them with non-expungeable convictions on their criminal record.
Also, female employees were expected to change in view of kitchen staff.
Holder said the women are seeking financial compensation and want the company to enact safeguards that will ensure better working conditions.
A male from the Orland Park restaurant also filed an EEOC complaint alleging he was repeatedly questioned about his sexual orientation, called derogatory terms, including “princess,” and denied regular breaks.