Muslim woman denied job at McDonald’s files complaint
BY NIRAJ WARIKOO
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
A Muslim woman from Troy filed a bias complaint today, saying she was denied a job at a McDonald’s restaurant in Rochester Hills because of her religion and ethnicity. A manager at the McDonald’s said she could not comment and a message left with McDonald’s headquarters was not immediately returned.
Nasihah Barlaskar, 19, wears an Islamic headscarf known as a hijab. She told the Free Press that during a job interview on March 27, a manager at McDonald’s asked her about her nationality. The manager then asked “if I had to wear that thing on my head,” according to Barlaskar.
Barlaskar said she replied: “I do, is that a problem?”
The manager then said, according to Barlaskar, “I probably wouldn’t be able to wear that if I was working.”
Barlaskar filed the complaint with the EEOC, Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, the U.S. agency that deals with job discrimination. It was filed with the help of Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Barlaskar, who was born in the United States, said it wasn’t proper for the manager to ask her about her nationality. Barlaskar’s parents are immigrants from Bangladesh.
Barlaksar said she filed the complaint because “I don’t want other people to go through what I went through…If no one speaks up, this will continue to happen, this won’t be the last time. We have to stand up.”
In July 2008, two Muslim women, Toi Whitfield of Detroit and Quiana Pugh of Dearborn, complained after a manager at a McDonald’s restaurant in Dearborn said they could not wear Islamic headscarves at work. Nabih Ayad, their attorney, filed suit and he said today that the case may go to trial in couple of months.
Barlaskar said she is a college student who was looking for a part-time job so she wouldn’t have to rely on her parents for expenses like gas money. She said her father was recently laid off.
After the interview with the manager, Barlaskar said she did not hear back from her. She said she then called back the McDonald’s and was told by the manager that they had hired someone else.
Student claims hijab cost her chance at fast-food job
Oralandar Brand-Williams / The Detroit News
Troy –A 19-year-old college student has filed an federal complaint against the McDonald’s restaurant on Crooks Road after she says she was turned down for a job at the eatery for wearing a hijab, a religious head scarf.
Nasihah Barlaskar said she went to a job interview on March 27 and was surprised when a white female supervisor asked if she intended to wear “that thing” at work, referring to the hijab.
“I said, ‘Yes I do. It’s part of my religion,'” said Barlaskar. “She said I would not be able to wear it (the hijab) while working. I told her I could wear the (McDonald’s) cap over my hijab.”
The supervisor also asked Barlaskar her nationality during the interview, Barlaskar said.
“She asked me my nationality and where I was from. I didn’t have a problem with it. I thought she was just trying to get to know me better,” said Barlaskar Tuesday. “I didn’t know it was illegal.”
McDonald’s has not responded to requests for comment today.
Barlaskar said she was surprised by the treatment from the supervisor since she has friends who work at other local McDonald’s and fast food restaurants that allow female employees to wear hijabs while at work.
Barlaskar said she needs to work to help pay for college expenses and to help her family out since her father lost his cab driving job last fall. But Barlaskar found out she didn’t get the job when she called the supervisor three days later.
She suspects she didn’t get it because of her decision to wear the hijab at work.
“She told me she decided to go with someone else but I think I was discriminated against because of the hijab,” said Barlaskar.
“On a personal level it was disappointing because I was born here. My family has been (in the United States) for 60 years,” said Barlaskar who is Bangladeshi-American. “With or without the hijab I’m the same person.”
The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission complaint was filed today by the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Barlaskar’s behalf.
“We urge McDonald’s to take immediate action to bring its hiring policies into compliance with long-established legal guidelines on reasonable religious accommodation in the workplace,” said Dawud Walid, CAIR-Michigan’s executive director.