Women say manager insulted them, refused them jobs because of their traditional Islamic dress.
Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News
DEARBORN — Two Muslim women say the manager of a McDonald’s restaurant refused to hire them and insulted them during job interviews because they wear traditional Islamic dress.
Toi Whitfield, 20, of Detroit, and Quiana Pugh, 25, of Dearborn, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court against McDonald’s, the owner of the local franchise and its unnamed manager. Their representative said they are considering filing civil rights complaints with the federal and state governments.
“I applied for the McDonald’s position maybe two weeks ago and he simply (told me) I had to make a choice and remove my hijab, or I would not be able to establish employment there,” Pugh said. “When I walked away, I was definitely hurt by it and disturbed. I was confused that it could happen here in Dearborn, with so many Muslims.”
Hijab is an Arabic word meaning “cover.” It refers to traditional Islamic dress, intended to encourage modesty, in which women often cover everything but the hands and face.
Finley Management Inc., which runs the franchise, said in a statement it has not been notified of the lawsuit.
“Finley Management has a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination with regard to race, gender, religion or national origin, in hiring, or in any other aspect of employment,” the statement read. “We would caution anyone from jumping to conclusions without having all the facts.”
McDonald’s publishes a corporate handbook with a chapter titled “Our Commitment to Employees,” which says that the world’s largest fast food chain forbids discrimination in employment.
“Each of our employees throughout the world deserves to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity,” the policy statement reads. “We provide equal opportunity for employees and applicants.”
The restaurant in question sits amid one of the largest concentrations of commercial businesses for Arab-Americans in the country. Like many of the national chain fast-food establishments in the area, it has long served some halal food, which conforms to Muslim dietary requirements.
“This manager must have just stepped off of some spaceship to think he can do this in this back yard, in Dearborn,” said Nabih Ayad, a civil rights lawyer who represents the women.
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Michigan, said that he has eaten at McDonald’s restaurants in Turkey that cater to Muslims and employ them, including numerous women who cover.
“It is extremely disturbing that such discrimination could take place at a location which does not mind collecting Muslim dollars, yet places restriction on Muslim women who wear hijab.” (MORE)