The lawsuit claims that, even after the 19-year-old worker complained to other supervisors, neither the restaurant nor Chipotle’s corporate leadership took any action against the assistant manager who tried forcibly removing her religious head covering.
A federal regulator has filed a lawsuit against Chipotle, claiming that the restaurant chain violated religious discrimination law when a Kansas manager forcibly removed an employee’s hijab.
According to ABC News, the lawsuit was filed earlier this week by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In its complaint, the E.E.O.C. says that, in 2021, an assistant manager at a Chipotle restaurant in Lenexa, Kansas, repeatedly harassed a Muslim employee over her hijab. The manager, says ABC News, purportedly demanded that the worker show her hair, asking multiple times over the course of a single month.
However, in Islam, it is common practice for both men and women to abide by a certain dress code, which emphasizes modesty for both sexes. Most observant Muslim women wear a headscarf-like covering over their hair, referred to as hijab.
Hijab is usually worn whenever a woman is outside the house, and many Muslim women will not remove it in the presence of unrelated men.
After several weeks of continued harassment, the manager physically grabbed the employee, succeeding in unraveling and removing part of her hijab.
The manager’s “offense and incessant requests” that the worker remove her hijab, coupled with his attempt to physically take it off, therefore constituted what the E.E.O.C. terms an “unwelcome, intentional [and] severe, based on religion,” violation of the woman’s rights.
The Commission also says that these actions “created a hostile working environment based on religion.”
Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, Laurie Schalow, told ABC News that the company encourages employees to report concerns.
“We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind and we have terminated the employee in question,” Schalow said.
The lawsuit notes that the alleged harassment began in July of 2021, when the assistant manager stated asking the 19-year-old employee to remove her hijab. He justified his request by simply saying that he wanted to see her hair.
Over the course of the next month, the same manager demanded to see the teenager’s hair no fewer than 10 times.
Each time, the worker refused, citing her religious beliefs.
While the woman complained to another supervisor, no action was taken against the assistant manager. Finally, in August 2021, the harassment escalated, culminating in the manager attempting to forcibly remove the plaintiff’s hijab.
The next day, the employee submitted her two weeks’ notice. Chipotle scheduled her for no further shifts, despite offering hours to other non-Muslim employees who had submitted notice around the same time.
The lawsuit alleges that Chipotle violated the victim’s civil rights and is demanding that the company provide equal employment opportunities for employees of all religions. It is also seeking back-pay and damages for the 19-year-old plaintiff.