AUGUSTA, Maine — An exotic dancer was unlawfully fired last year because of her race, the Maine Human Rights Commission found Monday.
Cecilia Smith of Portland said PT’s Showclub in Portland fired her because she is black. In written documents to the commission, the club said it did not fire Smith because of her race, but because she is “overweight and unattractive.”
Although it would be legal for the club to have fired Smith for being overweight, the Human Rights Commission investigator didn’t think that was the reason. Several of the other dancers and waitresses at the club were heavier than Smith, Domini Pham wrote in her investigator’s report.
Smith was hired in late February 2010 by the regular hiring manager and was fired four days later by a man only named in documents as “Big Boss.”
According to the report, Smith approached the regular hiring manager after she cashed out and changed her clothes on the night she was fired.
“She stated that she was the same as when she was hired. He stated, ‘I don’t know. Well, maybe it’s your weight.’ When she pointed out that other female workers were bigger than her, he stated that, ‘to be very blunt with you, your weight and your skin complexion, is not the image that the Boss wants to have in this club,’” the report states.
The other reason the investigator believed there was discrimination based on race, was because the club stressed in its evidence how many minority women it hires, but Pham found that PT’s Showclub hired many of its minority workers after the human rights complaint was filed.
“Their hiring appears to be in response to [Smith’s] allegation of discrimination,” Pham wrote.
The manager also referred to Smith as “colored” and refused to give her a locker like the other workers at the club had.
Neither Smith nor PT’s Showclub attended the Monday, Dec. 12 Human Rights Commission meeting. The commission members agreed in a 4-0 vote that PT’s Showclub discriminated against Smith.
In cases where grounds for discrimination are found, both parties are encouraged to reconcile and reach a settlement. If conciliation fails, the complainant may file a civil lawsuit in Maine Superior Court, where a binding settlement can include monetary damages.