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NYC Restaurant Fined $5,000 for 'Unintentionally' Gender-Specific Want Ad

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Seeking a "waitress" or "hostess" violates civil rights laws.

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New York City business owners should be careful of (perhaps unintentionally) using gendered language in job ads. The New York Post reports the owners of Sistina, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, are planning to fight a $5,000 fine issued by the city's Commission on Human Rights — which claims the restaurant violated civil rights laws for posting a Craigslist ad seeking a "hostess/coat check." (The term "hostess" being gender-specific to women only.) According to Sistina's owners, the ad was placed by a 24-year-old female employee who admitted she used the word "hostess" without giving it a thought: "I just wrote it as I would write any other ad."

New York State Senator José Peralta sides with the restaurant in this case — as in other cases where the word "waitress" was used — saying the agency should not target businesses that carelessly or accidentally use "unintentionally gendered language." But in the Sistina case, the Commission on Human Rights claims they "tested" the ad by sending two emails to the given address, one with a male name and the other with a female name. The CHR says only the female-gendered email was opened, but Sistina's owners argue that could have simply been an oversight.

Meanwhile, a quick glance at the current job forums on NYC's Craigslist are still full of ads seeking just a "hostess" (and no "host"): Restaurant owners, you might want to amend your ads accordingly.

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