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Chipotle sued by EEOC for religious discrimination

The EEOC alleges Chipotle failed to stop a Kansas manager’s harassment against a line worker for wearing a hijab.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit this week against Chipotle, claiming the restaurant chain violated federal law when a manager at a Lenexa, Kansas, location harassed a teen worker for wearing a hijab. The EEOC alleges the company retaliated against the employee when she complained about the harassment.

The teen was employed as a line server when the complaint was filed during the summer of 2021. She claims an assistant manager repeatedly – “approximately 10 to 15 times” – asked her to remove her hijab and eventually forcibly removed the headscarf. Despite her complaints to management, she alleges Chipotle failed to stop the manager’s harassment, which enabled escalation.

The EEOC further alleges that Chipotle retaliated against the worker by refusing to schedule her to work additional shifts unless she agreed to transfer locations, while the manager continued working at the same location. The lawsuit claims the worker was forced to submit her two weeks’ notice. The lawsuit calls the conduct “egregious, humiliating, and intimidating,” in addition to violating federal civil-rights law.

“People of faith have a right to work free from harassment based on their religious beliefs and practices,” Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District office, said in a statement. “Harassment of women and teen girls who choose to express their religious beliefs by wearing modest clothing or head coverings is never acceptable.”

Federal law – specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – prohibits discrimination, including harassment, based on a person’s religious beliefs. The law further prohibits retaliation against complaints about discrimination.

In a statement emailed to Nation’s Restaurant News, Laurie Schalow, Chipotle’s chief corporate affairs officer, said, "We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind and we have terminated the employee in question. Chipotle’s engaged and hard-working employees are what makes us great, and we encourage our employees to contact us immediately, including through an anonymous 800 number, with any concerns so we can investigate and respond quickly to make things right.”

The EEOC seeks monetary relief for the victim, as well as an order prohibiting future religious discrimination, and other relief.

This lawsuit comes on the heels of Chipotle’s $400,000 settlement for another EEOC lawsuit, filed in March 2022 claiming sexual harassment at a Sammamish, Washington, location. The company paid $70,000 in 2021 to settle another EEOC sexual harassment and retaliation case in Tampa. In May 2022, the EEOC sued Chipotle for sexual harassment, claiming a male manager at an Alabama restaurant sexually harassed an employee daily.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

TAGS: Workforce
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