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July 24, 2014

Burger King Franchisee Settles EEOC Discrimination Lawsuit

Fries Restaurant Management Pays $25,000 After Firing Teenage Employee For Seeking to Wear Skirt to Work

DALLAS - Dallas-based Fries Restaurant Management, which operates numerous Burger King franchises in Texas, will pay a former employee $25,000 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit (Civil Action No. 3:12-CV-3169-M), Ashanti McShan, a member of the Christian Pentecostal Church, adheres to an interpretation of the Scripture that  women should wear skirts or dresses.  At the time she applied to work as a cashier at a Grand Prairie, Texas Burger King franchise operated by Fries Restaurant Management, she informed the interviewer of her need to wear a black skirt instead of black uniform pants as a religious accommodation.  She was interviewed and hired by a shift manager, who told her at the time of her interview that her religious accommodation request could be granted.

However, when McShan arrived for orientation, she was told by store management that the employer would not allow her to wear a skirt and that she had to leave the store.  McShan tried to explain to store management that the skirt was an accommodation of her religious beliefs, but was again told that she could not work in the skirt.  McShan said that when she subsequently attempted to contact higher management, her calls went unreturned.  McShan, who was in her teens, was then discharged as a result of the accommodation denial, the EEOC said.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' and applicants' sincerely held religious beliefs as long as this does not pose an undue hardship.  The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.

Both the EEOC and Ms. McShan are pleased with the resolution of this lawsuit," said EEOC Trial Attorney Meaghan Shepard.  "We hope that the training and other non-monetary relief called for under the settlement will prevent situations like this in the future, and provide protection for other employees whose perhaps lesser-known religious beliefs require minor workplace accommodations.  Education, communication, and understanding are the keys to accommodation requests."

In addition to the payment to McShan, the consent decree settling the suit requires the company to provide training to district and general managers in its Texas Burger King franchises on the laws enforced by the EEOC, and post a notice of non-discrimination on employee bulletin boards for each year that the decree is in effect.

Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino of the EEOC's Dallas District Office said, "In this economic environment, it is hard enough for young people like Ms. McShan to secure jobs without the added hurdle of non-accommodation of religious beliefs.  This is a positive  resolution that sends the right message that folks don't have to compromise their beliefs in seeking gainful employment."

Janet Elizondo, director of the Dallas District Office, added, "I commend this employer for its willingness to enter an early settlement.  There did not appear to be a general policy by the franchisee in this case that would filter out other job seekers who share similar beliefs to this applicant."

© Copyright U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

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