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EEOC Files Charges Against Burger King in Workplace Attire Dispute

August 24, 2012
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Related Topics: Legal Compliance, Wrongful Discharge, Dress & Appearance, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Policies and Procedures, Latest News
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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed suit against a Burger King franchise for allegedly terminating a worker who wore a skirt rather than uniform trousers for religious reasons.

According to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Dallas in EEOC v. Fries Restaurant Management L.L.C., when Ashanti McShan, was hired as a cashier at the Grand Prairie, Texas, Burger King in August 2010, she had asked to wear a skirt instead of uniform pants as a religious accommodation. McShan is a Pentecostal Christian, a denomination that requires women to wear only skirts or dresses, according to the lawsuit.

She was assured she could wear a skirt to work, but when she arrived at work for orientation, store management told her she could not do so, and she was told to leave the store.

The lawsuit charges Fries Restaurant with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to accommodate McShan's religious beliefs. It seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

Dallas-based EEOC regional attorney Robert A. Canino said in a statement, "We haven't come far enough in our respect of religious liberties at the workplace if we have employers saying that uniform policies trump a religious observance without articulation of any hardship posed by letting an employee 'hold the pickles' and 'hold the lettuce' while wearing a skirt."

A spokesman for Fries Restaurant could not immediately be reached for comment.

This month, the EEOC announced a steel mill services company had agreed to pay $30,000 to settle a religious discrimination case in which a worker complained he was not permitted to go to church regularly.

Judy Greenwald writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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