Student files complaint, claims hijab cost her fast-food job

  • Wed Apr 14, 1:04 pm ET
By Oralandar Brand-Williams, The Detroit News
A 19-year-old college student has filed a federal complaint against the McDonald’s on Crooks Road in Troy after she says she was turned down for a job at the restaurant 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,’ ” Barlaskar said. “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,” Barlaskar said on Tuesday. “I didn’t know it was illegal.”
McDonald’s Michigan Region director of operations Joan Rachelson said the restaurant chain “has a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination or harassment in hiring, termination, or any other aspect of employment.”
“It is never our intention to offend anyone,” said Rachelson in the statement released today. “These allegations are not consistent with our policies, nor are they reflective of our employees or our brand. In fact, we have accommodated cultural and religious headwear in our restaurants for years. We require all employees to comply with local, state and federal employment laws and continually strive to maintain a positive restaurant environment in which everyone feels valued and accepted.”
Barlaskar said she was surprised by the treatment from the supervisor since she has friends who work at other local fast-food restaurants including McDonald’s that allow female employees to wear hijabs.
Barlaskar said she needs to work to help pay for college expenses and to help her family 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,” Barlaskar said. “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.

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