Burger King Fired Pentecostal Teen Who Refused To Wear Pants, Lawsuit Claims

Burger King Ashanti McShan fired Pentecostal teen pantsAshanti McShan was 17 years old when she got a job at Burger King. But on her first day working there, a manager allegedly told the Dallas-area teenager to leave. Because of her Christian Pentecostal faith, McShan says, she had to wear a skirt instead of the restaurant uniform's slacks, and the manager wasn't having it, according to a religious discrimination lawsuit filed Wednesday by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

McShan says that she explained in her Burger King job interview in August 2010 that her religious beliefs require strict adherence to Scripture, which for her meant that as a female she had to wear skirts or dresses and never pants. It states in Deuteronomy 22:5: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God."


Her interviewer, a manager at the local franchisee, Fries Restaurant Management, purportedly told her that a skirt was completely fine, and hired her as a cashier. But when McShan showed up for orientation soon after at a Burger King in Grand Prairie, Texas, a different manager allegedly told her that the skirt was unacceptable and she had to leave.

McShan contacted her initial interviewer and another higher-up, but nobody ever called her back, according to Meaghan Shepard, the lead EEOC attorney on the case. "So she was left with nowhere to go, and no job."

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must accommodate the religious observances of their employees, as long as those accommodations are "reasonable" and don't result in "undue hardship."

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Fries Restaurant Management could not be reached for comment, and hasn't responded to the lawsuit yet, according to Shephard. But when the EEOC approached Fries to discuss settling the case, she says that the company refused, and generally denied McShan's allegation.

A dress-code exception is the second most common religious request that employees make, reports The Washington Times, behind permission to observe religious holidays. "Nationally, we do see a lot of uniform issues," Shepard said, although she admits that they're rare at her state EEOC office in the Dallas district. "We're Texas," she said. "We see a lot of race issues."

And when it comes to race discrimination or sexual harassment, "there's often a malevolence or anger," Shephard says. "But in religious cases it's often pure and simple ignorance of the other person."

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Most of these issues seem to involve Muslim or Sikh dress. In 2008, six Muslim women filed a discrimination complaint, alleging that they were fired from a tortilla factory for refusing to wear pants that they considered immodest. And earlier this month, 40 Somali Muslim women began a similar discrimination case against their former employer, a Minnesota dessert company, which apparently also demanded that they don slacks for the job.

In 2008, a Sikh musician filed a $1 million class action suit against Walt Disney World for denying him employment, because his turban and beard "did not fit the Disney image." And earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Disneyland Resort for allegedly firing a Muslim employee for wearing a headscarf to work.

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And in May, the New York City Transit Authority agreed to pay out $184,500 to eight current or former Muslim and Sikh employees who had been punished for refusing to attach the agency logo to their khimars and turbans -- in what the workers saw as a violation of their religious beliefs.

But several cases have also involved Christians, such as the man who sued a hospital, claiming that he was fired in 2008 for wearing a lanyard with the phrase "I [heart symbol] Jesus." And a Pentecostal Christian filed a complaint in 2008 very similar to McShan's lawsuit against Burger King. The plaintiff in that case said that she was denied a job as a bus driver because she wouldn't wear pants. And the end result should give McShan some hope; the transit agency ultimately agreed to pay the woman more than $47,000.

Shephard says that she's been particularly struck by the case of McShan, because "she's a very articulate, soft-spoken young girl." And during the investigation, she allegedly told Shephard that the incident had "changed the way she looked at the world."

"She didn't think people would ever judge her for something like that," Shephard says. "As a young person ... you don't think people are capable of treating you like this."




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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

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deaby16

sorry for any spelling mistakes brain and finger not working

September 01 2012 at 2:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
deaby16

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Vintage+Burger+King+Uniform&qpvt=Vintage+Burger+King+Uniform&FORM=IGRE

web site of all the old Burger King outfits and yes they have dresses and skirts.
would I choose to wear a dress to work at BK no was it acceptable in the 70's years. As for her beliefs in wearing a skirt cause pants are for man. Whatever in the day of old both wore tunic (dress like outfits.) Long -short and so on. Like I have told people in the past when I finally meet the big one upstairs I ask the question... Can we even be sure that GOD really said everything everyone is quoting. Man interpret it told women that this is how things shall be and if not we shall be punished. DO I see anything wrong with a female wearing a skirt no and I don't see anything wrong with pants either. She is dressed clean and respectful to customers than that be it. Remember to religious sect who came to this county to escape religious persecution and they themselves where guilty of doing the same thing others. Only my opinion so no need for any haters for than your no better than the next.

September 01 2012 at 2:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
deaby16

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=Vintage+Burger+King+Uniform&qpvt=Vintage+Burger+King+Uniform&FORM=IGRE

September 01 2012 at 1:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BettySue

P.S. Being a true Man ,Woman or Child of God is not determined by the clothes we wear but by our walk.
You can stand in the garage all day and night...you will not be a car! Its not what covers you..that defines a person,,.it is the heart.

August 31 2012 at 5:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
BettySue

Everyone thinks they can come in and change Company Policies to suit themselves. Either you fit in or you don't get in!
That is like wanting to work at Hooters and you refuse to wear their shorts. You decide to wear orange baggy pants. Now you know how you feel about their dress code. Why would you challenge it and get booted out! SillY! Go some place else like Ross and wear your skirt! Why look like a odd ball just trying to start trouble?

August 31 2012 at 5:19 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
People-just-get-dumb

If you want to or need to wear a skirt go ahead and wear one but, do it somewhere else. There are some very hot surfaces in a restaurant. maybe they don't want a lawsuit from an employee getting burned.

There is freedom of religion in this country but it seem that many people are trying to force their beliefs on others by trying to make employers yield to their demands.

There are many places that would hire a young woman that feels that she has to wear a dress for religious reasons.

August 31 2012 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to People-just-get-dumb's comment
Eva Rinaldi

I don't wear skirts for religious reasons but feel more comfortable in them. I've worked every job imaginable in them including restaurants and you are no more likely to get burned in a skirt. Now if she were wearing a skirt that was too short, I think that should be an issue, or if she was wearing a skirt so bulky that it got caught in the equipment or something. But as long as her legs are covered, like with a maxi skirt I don't see what difference it can possibly make to her job performance.

June 16 2013 at 12:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
miaconlon

I wish people who have clothing restrictions stay out of jobs that require uniforms. I, for one, am tired of seeing all the suing and money being paid out for all these lawsuits. Pretty soon, none of us will be able to afford to buy anything because the costs will be too high due to all the money companys are forced to pay out just trying to keep the status quo. The US is no longer a melting pot -- if anything, it's become very, very religiously-costumed orientated. Oh never mind. I just got pissed off.

August 31 2012 at 2:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to miaconlon's comment
Eva Rinaldi

I wish it wasn't necessary to sue a company into doing something that should be a no brainer like refusing to allow someone to do something that is not a health hazard, doesn't affect their job performance and doesn't hurt public opinion of their brand.

The average customer of burger king doesn't even see the bottom half of the employees who work the counter anyway.

June 16 2013 at 12:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jennidoll

As directly quoted by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Religious Accommodation/Dress & Grooming Policies

"Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer's operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as DRESS or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). IT ALSO INCLUDES AN EMPLOYEE'S OBSERVANCE OF A RELIGIOUS PROHIBITION AGAINST WEARING CERTAIN GARMENTS (SUCH AS PANTS OR MINISKIRTS)".

"When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, he should notify the employer that he needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. IF IT WOULD NOT POSE AN UNDUE HARDSHIP THE EMPLOYER MUST GRANT THE ACCOMMODATION."

August 27 2012 at 5:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
kmr

"I want to do something my religion says i can't do, so my only option is SUE THE COMPANY!!"

these lawsuits are so bogus it's disgusting.

August 27 2012 at 10:48 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Servnhimnow

I have an issue with all of the complaining some of you are doing and I guess have not actually read the whole article... First off she was HIRED under the pretense that it was ok to wear the skirt and then FIRED for the very same thing. 2. Some BK restaurants that are allowing others to wear skirts, so she is going to win the case because they will be able to prove that it is not a health or safety hazard it's discrimination.. 3. You want to say "only live for God in church and at home but forget about the rest of the time". Why??? So you have even more reason to call Pentecostals hypocrites. A walk with God is not just here and there when you feel like it. It's daily and with every aspect of your life and that even includes your clothing.. She dresses modest to keep from causing a man to stubble in his thoughts. They do it easily enough on there own they do not need anymore help. Any decent respectable man would agree with that you would think. Some of you woman show all you have and could care less of the perverted things a man is thinking when he sees you with your booty shorts or mini skirts and your low cut shirts that leave nothing to the imagination for those men. Allot of them have wife's or girlfriends and don't want to look at all of that and i'm sure most of you woman are uncomfortable when your mans head is turned by a woman with next to nothing on. You would think you wouldn't bash the Pentecostals for the way they dress. It keeps your man from looking. They do it out of respect for men and them self. It is a conviction between them and their God not a religion or a pastor. They are not told they have to and if someone has they were out of line because it was not there place that is between them and God. Period. You are right I think this girl should go some were else and work obviously BK is not a company to work for. For all of you out there saying its a HEALTH and SAFETY violation. I guess many of you have never heard of Paula Dean or Ann Burrell both of which work on FOOD NETWORK and are famous Chefs both of them work in SKIRTS at times and do there thing. They are not Pentecostal. There are reasons why WE live like we do. Some of us are not going to do it half hearted. So what if she is taking a stand on something that is not hurting anyone. This is solely over her taking a stand on something other BK restaurants are allowing and it is not hurting anyone or effecting her ability to do the job at hand in anyway shape or form and for that reason alone I see the EEOC winning their case. If she was going for a position as a fire fighter or an HP officer or something that is going to require her he wear pants to do that kind of job I would agree she didn't need to bother with it. This job can be done in a skirt. It is being done in other stores. All she wanted to do was work not give bible study's out the drive thru window. To the Ashanti McShan. Keep doing what you are doing honey and God is going to bless you in it all.

August 25 2012 at 5:43 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Servnhimnow's comment
Eva Rinaldi

I'm not a pentecostal and although I support your right to follow your religon, I believe men are responsible for their own thoughts and behavior, and blaming it on women is kind of horrible.

BUT, you hit on the main point. She was open and up-front about wearing a skirt to work and was told it would be fine when she was hired, then fired for it. It shouldn't matter what it was or why she wanted the accommodation made- employers should be honest with their people and not hire people who want accommodations made because of their lifestyle, health needs, or religion that the employer will not make.

June 16 2013 at 12:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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