MANCHESTER, N.H. – A downtown restaurant is facing criticism following controversial Facebook posts seeking to hire a new bartender.
SoHo Bistro and Lounge, located on Old Granite Street, said that applicants must be “attractive” and “thin” if they did not have experience and referred to itself as an “anti-woke” business.
The Facebook post made on Nov. 5, along with other posts advertising for applicants, were modified following comments attacking the language used by SoHo. Commenters also reposted original screenshots of the posts (Nov. 5 post seen below), attempting to keep anyone seeing the modified posts aware of the original wording that commenters found offensive.
SoHo owner Chloe Sowers purchased the business in April and placed it under new management.
“In regard to stating that SoHo is “anti-woke,” she said that was intended to weed out bad job applicants. Over the previous week she has gotten three applicants, two of which scheduled an interview.
“No one has been able to calmly and rationally explain what the problem is,” she said. “I am tired of flakes that set their own job interviews, but never show up.”
She added that other wording relating to attractiveness was meant to require a professional-looking appearance, stating that bartenders are the forward face of a restaurant business. However, she acknowledged that the wording could have been better, thus necessitating the edited posts.
According to Attorneys Megan Douglas and Samantha Heuring of the Concord-based Douglas, Leonard and Garvey law firm, businesses cannot discriminate on gender, excluding rare situations in what is known as a “bona fide occupational qualification,” such as requiring Catholic priests to be Catholic or employees at brassiere stores to state that the model employee candidate should have breasts.
Douglass and Heuring could not speak specifically to SoHo’s advertisement but said that several elements within the posts could put an employer at legal risk.
Attractiveness may be a factor considered in hiring, as there is no law that prohibits discrimination against people based on their attractiveness alone. However, employers that require attractiveness in female employees but not in male employees run the risk of a discrimination lawsuit.
Furthermore, allowing comments on an employee’s physical features, whether male or female, could expose an employer to a sexual harassment claim as this may offend, intimidate and negatively impact the work environment for employees who do not welcome such commentary, they said.
“In New Hampshire we have strong protections for pregnant women under state law RSA 354-A and pregnancy ordinarily changes body size. So body size criteria in a job posting could work to exclude pregnant women unlawfully,” they said.
“As for tip sharing, managers and supervisors cannot take any part of employees’ tips under Federal Law. New Hampshire law prohibits employers from coercing employees into tip-sharing arrangements by threatening or imposing consequences in employment. The employer may, however, administer, oversee, and mediate a tip pooling arrangement entered into voluntarily by employees, so long as that arrangement does not include sharing with supervisors or managers,” they added.
Peter Macone, Operations Manager and partner at Republic Café and Campo Enoteca on Elm Street in Manchester, said he found the posts “disgusting” and an instigation, even after their modifications.
“I can’t think of any restaurant owner, even some with bad reputations, that would say things like this,” he said. “I would never seek to harvest that kind of culture in my businesses. It represents a lot of the things I would never want in my business. Even the part about ‘loving money’ was inappropriate. Money comes from providing a full hospitality experience for customers and providing a happy and healthy work environment.”
Added Macone, “If there is a silver lining, hopefully these posts will keep some really talented individuals from applying there.”
Former Manchester Republican Committee Chair Tammy Simmons-Garthwaite also felt that the advertisement was inappropriate and ineffective if one of its intentions was to attract conservative customers who have expressed disapproval with “woke” culture.
Although Simmons-Garthwaite said she may occasionally not buy items at a business due to extreme partisanship, she said that she frequents establishments where owners are Democratic and Republican, and usually the key factor in her decision-making as a conservative is quality, price and a preference for supporting local business whenever possible.
“I can appreciate the frustration that employers are having trying to find people trying to fill all the positions in these companies, I think every small business in the state is having problems finding somebody. That said, I still don’t think that it’s appropriate to advertise if you’re a casual drug user and not committing victimless crimes and don’t have any experienced, but you’re skinny and pretty is okay. It’s just so off-color,” she said. “I generally don’t go to places based on their hiring practices, but when I see something like that, there’s nothing about that post that makes me want to spend my money there.”