In a legal development that could have significant implications for fast-food giant Chipotle, a federal agency has filed a lawsuit against the company. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges that a teenage girl working at a Chipotle facility in Kansas faced religious harassment and retaliation from a manager. The lawsuit, filed recently, claims that the young worker was subjected to harassment due to her religious beliefs.
The lawsuit asserts that an assistant manager at a Chipotle in Lenexa, Kansas, repeatedly asked the then-19-year-old worker to remove her hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women. This manager allegedly made these demands, asking to see her hair at least 10 times over the course of a month. However, she consistently refused, citing her religious beliefs as the reason.
Even after the victim complained to another supervisor about the manager’s behavior, the franchise reportedly took no action to address the issue. This lack of response led to an escalation of harassment, culminating in the manager forcibly grabbing and removing part of her hijab in August of that year, according to the complaint.
Despite the teen’s report of the incident, Chipotle allegedly failed once again to take appropriate corrective action. In response to the manager’s harassment, the victim submitted her two-week notice, feeling compelled to do so after the incident with her hijab.
The EEOC’s complaint characterizes the manager’s demands as “offensive and incessant,” describing them as unwelcome, intentional, harsh, and religiously based. It asserts that this conduct created a hostile work environment based on religion.
Furthermore, the EEOC accuses Chipotle of retaliating against the victim by refusing to schedule her additional shifts after she submitted her two-week notice unless she agreed to transfer locations. Meanwhile, the manager in question continued to work at the same store. According to the complaint, non-Muslim employees who submitted their notices were not subject to similar treatment.
Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, emphasized the importance of protecting individuals’ right to work without harassment due to their religious beliefs and practices. The EEOC contends that Chipotle’s alleged misconduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on religion, and also prohibits retaliation against employees who complain of discriminatory treatment.
The EEOC says it filed the lawsuit after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks monetary relief for the victim, an order barring future religious discrimination, and other forms of relief.
In response to the lawsuit, Chipotle’s director of corporate affairs, Laurie Schalow, emphasized the company’s commitment to addressing employee concerns, including through an anonymous hotline. Schalow stated that Chipotle maintains a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of discrimination and that the employee in question has been terminated.
This lawsuit could have far-reaching implications for Chipotle as it navigates allegations of religious harassment and retaliation within its ranks.