October 20, 2019

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EEOC Sues McDonald’s Franchise For Religious Discrimination

Longwood Restaurant Failed to Hire Applicant Because of His Beard, Federal Agency Charges in Lawsuit

ORLANDO, Fla. - Chalfont & Associates Group, Inc., owner of multiple McDonald's restaur­ants in Central Florida, violated federal law when it refused to hire a job applicant who would not shave his beard due to his religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, a practicing Hasidic Jew applied for a part-time maintenance worker position at a McDonald's in Longwood, Fla. During his interview, the hiring manager told the applicant he would be hired, but needed to shave his beard to comply with McDonald's grooming policy. McDonald's grooming policy states "[a]ll employees must be completely clean shaven." The applicant told the hiring manager he would not shave his beard due to his religious beliefs. The appli­cant offered to wear a beard net as a solution, but was denied. 

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits dis­crimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant's or employee's sincerely held religious beliefs, unless it poses an undue hardship.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division (EEOC v. Chalfont & Associates Group, Civil Action No. 6:19-cv-01304-PGB-GJK), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

"The fact that McDonald's has grooming policies does not exempt them from following the law," said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg. "McDonalds was aware the applicant could not shave his beard for religious reasons, but refused to accommodate his religious beliefs. Employers should never force applicants to choose between their sincerely held religious beliefs, which can be reasonably accommodated, and earning a living."

Michael Farrell, district director for the Miami District Office, said, "The employer's conduct, in this case, was unjustified and unlawful. The EEOC consistently encourages employers to review their policies and practices to ensure they follow federal mandates regarding workplace accommodations for religious beliefs and practices."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office's jurisdiction includes Florida, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Source: https://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-16-19.cfm

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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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