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Florida McDonald’s Franchise Location Sued for Religious Discrimination

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On July 16th, 2019, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced the filing of a religious discrimination lawsuit against Chalfont & Associates Group — a company that owns and operates several McDonald’s franchise locations in Central Florida. In this article, our Miami employment law attorneys offer an overview of the religious discrimination complaint filed by the EEOC.

The Issue: The McDonald’s Franchisee ‘Grooming’ Policy  

According to information provided by the EEOC, the McDonald’s franchise location at issue in this case is located in Longwood, Florida — a small city in Seminole County, just outside of Orlando. A man who identifies as a practicing Hasidic Jew submitted an application for a part-time position at this restaurant.

He received an interview, and, during this interview, a manager informed him that he would be hired for the job. However, within the same conversation, he was also told that he would be required to shave his beard — as the franchise has a ‘grooming’ policy mandating that all workers must be clean-shaven when on the job.

In response, he stated that he could not shave because of his religious beliefs. Instead, he offered to wear a net to keep his beard contained while he was working. His alternative solution was denied by the employer, and he was not hired for the position. On his behalf, the EEOC filed a religious discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court on the grounds that the employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

EEOC Guidance: Grooming Policies Must Comply With Federal and State Law 

Florida employers are permitted to have general grooming policies. That being said, these policies must be consistent with state and federal labor regulations that prohibit religious discrimination. Many religious discrimination claims involve disputes over ‘religious garb’ or ‘grooming’. In interpreting the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC notes that employers have a duty to amend there general dress and grooming practices to allow for a ‘reasonable accommodation’ for religious workers.

In determining if an accommodation is reasonable, courts are instructed to consider whether or not an accommodation would have an undue hardship on the employer. In this case, the EEOC contends that the McDonald’s franchise could have granted the employee an accommodation, specifically the use of a beard net, that would have allowed him to safely and fairly take the position. Even if the employer found the beard net solution to be unworkable, the EEOC states that the company still had a duty to make a good faith effort to work with the religious job applicant to find another solution.

Discuss Your Case With Our Miami, FL Employment Law Attorneys Today

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida employment lawyers have the skills and experience to handle the complete range of religious discrimination claims. We represent both employers and employees. To arrange a confidential initial consultation, please do not hesitate to call us today. From our law offices in Miami and West Palm Beach, we handle employment law claims throughout South Florida.

Resource:

eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-16-19.cfm

https://www.turnpikelaw.com/miami-company-settles-disability-discrimination-employment-law-claim-for-30000/

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