Muslim employees allege restaurant owner discriminated against them.
Michigan-based restaurant chain, Anna’s House, and two former employees who filed a workplace discrimination lawsuit, have reached a settlement. The lawsuit was filed in January 2020 by the eatery’s Westland location staff. They alleged they were terminated without reason.
A manager alleged she was asked to tell a worker in the front to remove her hijab and she refused to do so because it was part of the woman’s religious expression. According to the lawsuit, the Anna’s House owner also allegedly asked whether the kitchen supervisor prayed at work, and the supervisor’s attorney believes his client was targeted due to be a Muslim.
“Our two clients suffered the most horrific, undignified treatment at the hands of the owner of Anna’s House – they were embarrassed, they were humiliated, they were victims of discrimination and I am so honored to represent them because they have the courage and the bravery to fight back,” Michael Pitt, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said upon filing.
The suit alleges further, “Anna’s House owner and operator Josh Beckett fired former employees Alicia Dunlap and Aliou Diao without explanation after trying to enforce policies in a discriminatory manner and even asking one Muslim woman to remove her headscarf, or hijab, during working hours.” He actually referred to the woman’s “jihab,” which the plaintiff believes was done purposely.
“Everybody knows that jihad is not the proper term for the Muslim headscarf, it is hijab,” said Amy Doukoure, attorney representing Diao with CAIR-Michigan. “Jihad is often a word that is weaponized against Muslims to create an environment and an atmosphere and to create the sense that Muslims are inherently nefarious to the fabric of America. His choice of words, we don’t believe, was an accident.”
Both employees worked at the Westland location. They were fired on June 17, 2019, despite receiving positive performance feedback. Dunlap, a Hispanic and Christian woman, worked for the restaurant for two years. Diao, a Senegalese Muslim, worked as kitchen manager since December 2017.
The restaurant initially responded, “Anna’s House is aware of the lawsuit filed today. We have retained counsel and will defend against these claims in Court. Anna’s House has and continues to be a place that employs and serves people of all backgrounds and beliefs.” After the deal, Doukoure, said, “The only statement I can provide is that it settled upon terms agreeable to all parties.”
Anna’s House attorneys submitted a response last month to the initial January 2020 filing, denied the allegations of workplace discrimination and the workers’ version of events. According to the restaurant chain, “Plaintiffs were not subjected to any adverse disparate treatment or any adverse employment action by Defendants because of any protected category or activity nor did defendants act in reckless disregard of any protected rights…Defendants did not retaliate against Plaintiff in any way or for any reason.”
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan, said, “Southeastern Michigan is not a homogeneous region. This is one of the most ethnically and religiously diverse regions in the entire state of Michigan,” Walid said. “When we have situations like this, where we have people of color who are being blatantly discriminated against and double standards, this cannot be acceptable at all, but especially here in southeastern Michigan.”