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A former journalist at the Houston Chronicle filed a complaint with the EEOC last week, and is accusing the paper of gender discrimination. Sarah Tressler says she was fired after a local alternative paper revealed that she's a part-time stripper. The article also pointed readers to her anonymous blog, Diary of an Angry Stripper.
Soon after the article ran, the stripping reporter was told that she was fired for not disclosing the information when she applied for the job. But as she tells it, "There was no question on the form that covered my dancing."
Not only that, she doesn't even strip part-time. Though stripping paid for her education, Sarah Tressler told CNN that, these days, she dances at most a few hours a week. Nonetheless, she says she was illegally fired for being a stripper.
Many are wondering how this equates to gender discrimination -- she really seems to have been fired for embarrassing the paper. In an at-will employment situation, that's completely legal. However, this is how the stripping reporter's attorney, the famed Gloria Allred, is explaining the claim:
"Most exotic dancers are female, and therefore to terminate an employee because they had previously been an exotic dancer would have an adverse impact on women, since it is a female dominated occupation."
This is called disparate impact discrimination. Employment discrimination laws prohibit seemingly neutral employment policies that disproportionately impact protected groups of people. This theory is usually applied to unnecessary hiring criteria and selection procedures.
It's unclear whether refusing to hire and retain current and former strippers will fall under this rule. These sorts of cases are difficult to prove and rely on a large body of statistics. So unless the Houston Chronicle decides to settle, chances are Sarah Tressler is in for a long fight.