Burger King Pays $25,000 to Settle a Religious Discrimination Lawsuit
Last year a Texas Burger King agreed to a $25,000 settlement with Ashanti McShan to avoid a religious discrimination lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). A Pentecostal teenager, McShan only wears skirts because of her belief in the Biblical commandment that a woman should not wear a man’s clothing. When hired, she asked for permission to wear a skirt instead of the restaurant’s pants uniform. Management agreed. However, upon arrival for orientation in a skirt, store management demanded that she leave if she wanted to wear a skirt.
Religious discrimination is illegal
State and federal employment laws make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against individuals in hiring, firing and work environment because of their religion. In addition, employers may not take an adverse employment action against an employee who files a complaint of discrimination with the EEOC.
Reasonable accommodation versus undue hardship
Under employment discrimination law, employers must make a reasonable accommodation to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious practices. Religious accommodations often include flexible scheduling, swapping assignments or even lateral transfers. They can also involve allowing certain dress or grooming practices based on religious values.
If accommodating an employee’s religious practices would cause undue hardship, then the employer may refuse to do so. Examples of undue hardship include the following:
- Risks to workplace safety
- Significant decreases in workplace efficiency
- Unfair infringement upon the rights of other employees
- Disproportionate shifts of the work burden to others
In a religious discrimination lawsuit, a plaintiff may recover lost wages, compensatory damages, attorney fees and, when special circumstances warrant, punitive damages.
Making a claim for religious discrimination in employment involves gathering evidence to show differential treatment and, in some instances, an employer’s failure to accommodate an employee’s religious practices. Obtain assistance from an experienced employment law attorney.