Burger King's motto might be "Have it your way," but the slogan's rhetorical generosity does not, apparently, apply to its employees, according to a discrimination lawsuit filed in Dallas Federal Court Wednesday morning.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing Grand Prairie Burger King franchisee Fries Restaurant Management, LLC for religious discrimination, a violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This section of the Civil Rights Act prohibits an employer from discriminating based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
According to the Dallas Morning News, two summers ago high school senior Ashanti McShan got a job working at a local Burger King outside of Dallas, Texas.
McShan is Pentecostal, a variation of Christianity that emphasizes fundamentalist principles and the unquestionable accuracy of the Bible. Pentecostal women often cover their heads while worshipping and dress conservatively.
Cashiers at McShan's restaurant are supposed to wear black slacks, but according to the lawsuit, McShan requested she be allowed to wear a long black skirt as a religious exemption.
"Defendant assured her that she could wear a skirt to work," the filing explains. "However, when she arrived at work for orientation, the store management informed Ms. McShan that she could not wear a skirt and that she had to leave the store... The result of the foregoing practices has been to deprive Ashanti McShan of equal employment opportunities because of her religious beliefs and observances as a Christian Pentecostal."
EEOC attorney Meaghan Shepard told the Dallas Morning News that McShan made a "simple request."
"I've seen cases where an employer has denied a religion accommodation, and its something where you could see how it could cause a problem," Shepard told the news organization. "The legal standard is 'undue hardship,' and in this instance it was a very simple request -- to be able to wear a long black skirt and not black pants, and it was initially granted...She was responsible, tried to get in touch with someone higher in the franchise, and they never responded to her."
In a press release, regional attorney Robert A. Canino of the EEOC's Dallas District Office expressed concern about the alleged incident.
"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," he said.
The complaint seeks actual damages, punitive damages and an injunction, according to the Courthouse News Service.
The Huffington Post attempted to reach Fries Restaurant Management, LLC for comment but could not immediately get a hold of the general manager. Burger King sent HuffPost the following statement:
As a normal course of business, Burger King Corp. does not comment on personnel or legal matters related to its franchisees, who independently own and operate BURGER KING(r) restaurants.
In May, a Burger King manager in Virginia sued the chain, claiming he was fired because he was HIV-positive. Christopher Peña, a seven-year Burger King veteran, claimed Burger King infringed on his civil rights and was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, including an employee's HIV status.