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HR CASE STUDY: Disparate Treatment or Discrimination


 DISCLAIMER: Sharkey HR Consulting marries creative writing with (non-AI writing) HR Dilemmas for teaching purposes. The HR issues are real. The rest is fiction.



Years and years ago, I was a waitress (server) at Planet of LOUD MovieStars restaurant.   This particular Santa Ana store is now closed and all that is left is dust.

But let’s go back to 1993 and Planet LOUD MovieStars Restaurant– when some think it is cool. 

So, when I moved to California from Florida via New Jersey; I moved in with my three gay friends: Toddy, Chip, and Daniel.

Our unisex uniforms of a busy black button-down shirt with yellow and red planets swirling around, black shorts, pants --- just black bottoms, the standard apron, cheese grater, and even a pepper grinder.



Planet LOUD MovieStars Restaurant - 1993 – Does the Month Matter?  No.



For those who have never worked as a waiter/server or in a restaurant, there is something called “Shift-Meeting” Now. – Actually, in 1993 the manager usually had a stringy ponytail, mall hair, and/or was an old man who thought he was Pauly Walnuts before the Sopranos existed.  One of these winners will tell you “The game plan” for the night.  “Upsell Kettleone and we have no decaf.”  Crap like that runs out of their mouths. 

Gosh, that makes me sound cynical.  Me, not really.  I am usually in a pretty good mood; especially in 1993 when I first moved to California. I live with the three beautiful gay men.  BTW, did you know that straight men will think you are a lesbian if you are a straight woman living with gay men?  Crazy.  I know. 

Back to story…  We live in Laguna Beach, rather we “rent” in Laguna Beach, and all work at Planet LOUD MovieStars; which is a 30–40-minute drive. 


Remember we are still in 1993, with no cell phones and people think Planet Loud MovieStars is cool.   For people that don’t know Laguna, is it a pricey town.  We are waiters and money is tight.  We can make our rent, but electricity – maybe not. 

So. It Happened. The Electricity was cut off.  There was no taping of Melrose Place on his VCR that night.  This night was not Toddy Marter’s night.  I had to hear about the whole 30-40 minute drive. 

“Damn it to hell.  Who didn’t pay the electric bill?” He didn’t. He fails to remember that fact.

Let me take a moment to give you a vision of Toddy Marter. 

Toddy is 6’4” with Nordic god-like looks, a Don Knott’s sense of innocence, an acid tongue, and is always Shocked when something goes wrong.  However, lately…many things have been going wrong for Toddy.  In all honesty; his life does suck.

“Toddy, that sucks.  I don’t who it was, but we will get it worked out.”  I say in a lullaby tone. I check my waitress's apron for pens, cheese grater, bank, and server book (Server book is that hard cover case the server puts you check in and puts on the table.) The sound of Toddy whooshing to the car shakes the room.

Beep, Beep goes the car horn. 

Now. Toddy with all his strength and all his might could not get more than a “beep” out of that car’s old horn, no deep bass or scary-sounding horn; nope his car’s horn sounded like a bicycle bell.

 “Mother-F*#cker, why don’t you learn how to drive?” He screams at the old man driving in the Rolls Royce.

“Planet Loud be Damned, Shankie.  I’m not sure we will make shift meeting with all these #uckers on the road.”  He perfectly pronounces every word; as if to hold back the volcano of his emotions.

“We will be fine, no worries.” I am worried, but I don’t say it.

“Well, if any of those managers tries to write us up…….” beep beep”, Todd is distracted by another mother ducker who doesn’t know how to drive. “Oh God --- please let Mall-Hair Manager be working tonight. She, at least is reasonable.  F**k me!  If fake Pauly Walnuts is working tonight. Him - piled on the No-Melrose-Place-for- Todd- Cream-Pie will officially make this night complete and utter horsesh8#.”   Todd screeches the car into a parking spot.

We exit the car. Adjust our uniforms and head of the stairs to pre-shift: there sits puffy-haired Fake Pauly Walnuts.  We made it in time; barely.  Todd looks at Fake Pauly, purses his lips, and thunders under his breath.

“Shankie -This is just another Miserable Chapter in my Horrible, and I mean horrible Life!”

I reach up to rub his shoulder – what else could I do? He brushes me off, he crashes into his usual seat upfront; ready to take copious notes of the night’s specials.   I move to the back, way back -- I see Roseanne, she calls me over with a nod and whispers, “What’s up with the electricity?”

“I’ll tell you later.” I grimace. Fake Pauly is eyeing me.  He is a homophobe and a jackass.  The kind of guy that cheats at solitaire. Fake Pauly is a bum with a suit and a pinch of power over some waiters.  I’m from New Jersey. I know. He knows.  I got his number, but good.  Fake Pauly doesn’t like me.  It’s a mutual thing.

“Quiet Down, you --- youse just shut your traps for once.” Yup, that’s how Fake Pauly starts a meeting.

Back to Fake Pauly

“Tonight, the whole restaurant has a party.  So, you will all be getting Party Pay, which is $25 an hour. Wait…wait…except for Toddy Marter.  Toddy Marter will not receive Party Pay.”

Quick side note to non-waiters: At that time - Servers live off their tips, and the hourly rate usually doesn’t even cover the taxes that are taken from our checks.

Another Stop:    Me, at this juncture; whether nerves, my dismay of working, or Toddy’s communion of poop --- I giggle. In fact, the harder I try to keep from laughing, the more giggles multiply.

It gets better or worse depending on your point of view… back to Fake Pauly.

“Everyone, but Toddy Marter will get Party Pay. Toddy Marter will be expected to work for the party but will not receive Party Pay!”

“Hahahahahahahaha…oh my God, I can’t breathe...hahhahahahahahahahahahahaha” That’s me. I point to Roseanne as if she is making me laugh.

Toddy slams his server book to the left to the right and back again.  I swear I hear Toddy’s voice: “Just another miserable chapter in my horrible life.  Come on Fake Pauly, what’s else you got for me?”

“Hahahahahahahaha…oh my God, I can’t breathe. Hahhahahahahahahahahahahaha” That’s me - I'm going to lose it. I am about to vomit guffaws, tears, and pray I don't pee myself.

“Hey, who called me Fake? I’ll tell youse what's fake!  Shankie, Shankie, settle yourself down. Youse thinks you on Melrose Place?”

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.” My laughter dam burst. There is no stopping.

Fake Pauly continues……

 “Toddy Marter will have (1) two-top table tonight as the party will need the extra four tables.  Toddy Marter will not - will not get Party Pay.  Toddy Marter will be expected to work the Party and help.  Since Toddy Marter will have one table, Toddy Marter is not eligible for Party Pay.  Now.  When the Party is over, the rest of you can leave and Toddy Marter will close the restaurant.  Toddy Marter is responsible for all the side work but will not receive Party Pay.”

“HahahaHahahahaha…Roseanne, I need a tissue. hahhahahahahahahahahahahaha” That’s still me.

At this point, because I am the quiet one, my uncontrollable laughter is getting noticed.  It is contagious.  I hid behind one of the pony walls, but at this point, I was sure I was crackling. Others were joining in the laughter.

Pre-shift ends.  Toddy is smiling as he strides toward me.  Honestly, the sheer absurdity of Fake Pauly naming Toddy, at least 8-45 times was ridiculous.

Toddy, I am sorry, but ……”

“Well, Shankie, don’t worry about us.  We are f&*cking Melrose Place.”




1.       Do you think Toddy was discriminated against?

2.       If so, do you think the violation would be disparate treatment or discrimination?

3.       What laws if any were active in 1993 that could apply to this case? 

4.       Do you think Fake Pauly created a hostile work environment?

6.       Do you even know the TV show Melrose Place existed?








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