WASHINGTON – A leading American Muslim civil rights group filed on February 4 a federal discrimination complaint against a restaurant owner on behalf of a female Muslim convert who complained about facing harassment from her manager over hijab, Augusta Chronicle reported.
“Many people don’t report discrimination at work for fear of losing their job, but we encourage them to report it. She experienced discrimination and harassment in the workplace,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that Lacey Enevoldsen was discriminated against by her manager Sean Wight – owner of ‘Farmhaus Burgers’ after she began practicing Islam and wearing a hijab last summer.
Enevoldsen had been working at the restaurant since May 2017 and decided to resign in August of the same year accusing Wight of discrimination and harassment.
According to a letter to Frog Hollow Hospitality Group, Enevoldsen had a meeting with Wight on July 5, 2017, in which she claimed he asked her about the hijab and told her he was “not a fan of Muslims” and equated wearing a hijab to supporting the Taliban.
Her letter also stats that Wight has also told her that if she didn’t take off the hijab, he would find a place for her in the back of the restaurant working in the kitchen staff. Wight ended the meeting by saying he didn’t like the hijab and that it was a shame because she was a good employee.
“Evidence supports her claims, including a recording with a manager in which he apologized for Wight’s remarks and emails between them,” Mitchell assured.
Enevoldsen’s letter says that after talking to Wight’s wife and co-owner, Krista, she sent her photographs wearing different styles of hijabs to see what would be appropriate. Wight agreed in an email to let her wear the hijab.
“However, he began to shadow me during my work shifts by standing nearby, rolling his eyes and staring at me for no apparent reason. My hours began to decrease to the point that it began to affect my livelihood. So, I resigned a month later,” she said in her letter.
On the other hand, Wight released a statement that read: “We respect everyone’s right to practice their religion, and we support our employees in their choices. We’ve never told any employee that religious attire couldn’t be worn to work. We strive to make fair decisions about all aspects of the operation of our restaurants, and we’ve done so every day we’ve been in business.”
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
CAIR offers a booklet, called “An Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” to help employers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the workplace.