NEW YORK (AP) – A woman who tried to get a job as a bikini-clad barmaid at a restaurant says managers rejected her because she has a “Latin accent” and her speech is too “ghetto.”

Melody Morales, who was born in Brooklyn to Dominican and Puerto Rican parents, says in a lawsuit she asked managers 15 times for a job at the Hawaiian Tropic Zone eatery in Manhattan’s theater district. She says they always denied there were job openings even after other employees told her there were.

Her court papers say that in March 2008 one manager told her, “I’m not going to ruin my business with your Latin accent.” She says another told her in June, “You don’t speak white,” and, “You are ghetto.”

Morales, 22, said Tuesday the comments made her “feel really bad.”

“I cried a lot,” she said. “I couldn’t believe this kind of discrimination still goes on in the Unites States.”

Her court papers say that when she protested to a manager that he was discriminating illegally, he said, “You can get any lawyer that you want. We have the best lawyers.”

“I don’t want to sound conceited,” said Morales, a former waitress at a nearby Hooters restaurant and bar, “but I look good in a bikini. I’m curvy. I’ve got boobs. I love to dress sexy. I would love wearing a bikini and high heels.”

She said the managers “didn’t even look at me in my bikini.”

“I was going to be good for their business,” she said.

Hawaiian Tropic Zone, which features a three-tier dining room and a catwalk stage, says it brings the “glitz and entertainment back into fine dining” and “tantalizes the senses.” Its “friendly exotic” waitresses in bikinis and floral sarongs “star in a nightly beauty pageant,” according to its Web site.

A Hawaiian Tropic Zone spokesman, Patrick M. Smith, issued a statement saying Morales’ lawsuit was baseless.

“We are proud of the many Latino and Latina employees in our diverse work force,” it said. “We are an equal opportunity employer and find this claim to be without merit.”

Morales’ court papers say she expected to earn about $500 a night at Hawaiian Tropic; they seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Morales, who wouldn’t say why she left Hooters, now works part time as a restaurant hostess in Ossining, N.Y., about an hour’s commute north of her Manhattan home.

Hawaiian Tropic Zone also has a location in Las Vegas.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.