Employment application for two Florence restaurants raises equality questions

Ricatoni’s Italian Grill and City Hardware

Federal rules against discrimination are raising questions about the job-application process at two downtown restaurants.

Ricatoni’s Italian Grill and City Hardware on Court Street have required job applicants to provide their height and weight.

“Height and weight requirements tend to disproportionately limit the employment opportunities of some protected groups,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “Unless the employer can demonstrate how the need is related to the job, it may be viewed as illegal under federal law.”

Assistant Vice President of Human Resources Catherine White said height and weight are not protected, but may still be illegal under EEOC law.

“I would never advise an employer to have height and weight on a job application unless there is a legit business reason,” she said. “I don’t see that need here.”

Owner of Ricatoni’s and City Hardware Rick Elliot declined to comment on the reason for placing the questions on the application.

“When you pick a fight with me, you’re messing with the wrong person,” Elliot told The Flor-Ala when asked about the questions on the application.

He said he would be “happy to remove” the applications’s height and weight questions.

“I’ve been in the restaurant business for years, and that’s the exact same application that I’ve always used,” he said.

Freshman Bria Paschal said she does not understand why a restaurant needs a potential employee’s height and weight.

“Do they not want fat people working there?” Paschal said. “What are they going to do once you get the job? Will they weigh you every month?”

The commission prohibits discrimination based on age, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or gender in any employment decision: hiring, firing, demotion, promotion or training, White said.

Any business dealing with the public at large must follow the commission’s guidelines, she said.

Senior Alicia Threet, a hostess and server at Ricatoni’s Italian Grill confirmed she was asked her height and weight when she applied.

“At first, it was kind of annoying,” Threet said. “It was weird to me. I asked the manager about it and they said Ricatoni’s is a really slim place.”

“There’s not much space to move around the corners and stuff like that,” Threet said. “ They claim that’s why they ask about that.”

She said she understands how the height and weight questions could bother some people.

Other restaurants in downtown such as Odette, The Pie Factory and Rosie’s Mexican Cantina do not require applicants to supply height and weight information, according to each restaurant’s job application.

Any who feel they have been discriminated against on the job can file a charge of discrimination through the commission.

The commission gives the grieved party the right to file a federal lawsuit after the complaint is investigated, said Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly.

Connolly said the federal court, not the state, handles these cases.