Muslim head-covering firing leads to suit against McDonald's

Jon Campisi Aug. 17, 2011, 6:20am

A New York woman who alleges she was fired from her job at a McDonald’s restaurant in suburban Philadelphia two years ago has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the store’s owner, alleging federal civil rights violations.

Blue Bell, Pa.-based attorney Andrew S. Abramson, of Abramson Employment Law, LLC, filed the complaint Aug. 15 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Ichrak El-Yousfi of Bronx, NY.

The defendant named in the lawsuit is Doylestown, Pa.-based H&J Restaurant Management, Inc., trading as McDonald’s.

According to the complaint, El_Yousfi was hired in September 2008 as a full-time manager at a McDonald’s restaurant in Bucks County, Pa. operated by the defendant. H&J owned and operated another McDonald’s franchise in the region as well, one where the plaintiff also often worked.

In June 2009, the suit states, El-Yousfi got married, after which she began wearing a religious head covering in accordance with her Muslim views.

One day in late June 2009, El-Yousfi reported to work wearing the religious garb, only to be told by management that the company prohibits the wearing of such items while working.

At one point, a superior, citing potential customer concerns, even allegedly told her, “Remember what happened on 9/11. People will think of 9/11 and not come to the restaurant,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiff told her boss that the item was worn as part of her religious beliefs, but the manager reportedly told her “it does not matter, it was not part of her McDonald’s uniform, and Plaintiff El-Yousfi could not wear the head covering,” the lawsuit states.

After refusing to remove the head covering, management contacted H&J’s president and area supervisor, who eventually informed the plaintiff that the McDonald’s corporate policy prohibits the wearing of headscarves at work.

“McDonald’s Corporation does not have a corporate policy that prohibits an employee at a McDonald’s store from wearing a headscarf with a McDonald’s uniform,” the lawsuit counters.

El-Yousfi refused to choose “work over her religion,” the lawsuit states, and her employment was soon terminated.

“Defendant H&J refused to reasonably accommodate Plaintiff El-Yousfi’s religious practice by not permitting her to wear a head covering at work, even though Defendant would not incur any ‘undue hardship,’” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that the defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with regard to religious discrimination.

The suit also alleges violations of Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, (for allegedly failing to pay the plaintiff overtime compensation), and the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law.

El-Yousfi seeks a judgment in excess of $150,000, plus monetary losses, back pay, attorney’s fees, compensatory and punitive damages and other court costs for the first two counts listed in the complaint.

For the remaining counts, she seeks overtime wages and other damages.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05174-JHS.

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