Florida McDonald’s Franchise Agrees to Settle a Religious Discrimination Claim
On August 19th, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a public statement confirming that Chalfont & Associates Group—a company that owns nearly a dozen McDonald’s franchise locations across the state of Florida—has settled a religious discrimination claim for nearly $70,000. The EEOC filed the employment lawsuit on behalf of a Jewish job applicant who was allegedly denied a position based on his religious grooming practices.
Allegations: Applicant Denied Opportunity Based on Grooming Policy
The job applicant in this case was a Jewish man who applied for a position as a maintenance worker. In accordance with his religious faith, the man had a beard. The McDonald’s franchise location in question had a corporate policy requiring its employees to be completely clean-shaven. The company stated that its policy was crafted in order to ensure that the restaurant was able to obtain a “clear” and “wholesome” image for consumers.
The applicant stated that his religious beliefs prevented him from shaving his beard. He offered to wear a beard net as a solution—but the employer denied the proposed accommodation and refused to hire him for the position. The EEOC filed a lawsuit on the grounds of religious discrimination in the workplace. That employment law claim has now been settled. The company agreed to pay the applicant nearly $70,000 and it agreed to amend its workplace practices to ensure full compliance with state and federal religious discrimination laws.
Understanding Religious Accommodations in the Workplace
There is much confusion about religious discrimination and religious accommodations. Some employers believe that they cannot be held liable for religious discrimination in the workplace if they “treat all workers exactly the same.” This is a common misconception. Companies and organizations that are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act are required to make a good faith effort to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees and job applicants. Treating all employees the same way is not a valid legal defense because federal employment law requires employers to take additional action to accommodate religious workers.
A religious accommodation is an adjustment to standard workplace practices in order to allow a religious person to perform the position while still living up to their values or traditions. Grooming policies are a very common example of where a religious accommodation may be necessary. There is no state or federal law that prevents an employer from deciding to create a policy that requires staff members to be “clean shaven”. However, that policy must be flexible to the needs of religious employees. An accommodation may be required.
Call Our Florida Employent Discrimination Attorneys for Immediate Help
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Miami employment law attorneys have the skills and knowledge needed to handle all types of religious discrimination claims. We have represented both employers and employees. Call us right away for a completely private review of your case. Our employment lawyers handle cases in Miami, West Palm Beach, and all communities in between.