A fast-food restaurant in Texas is apologizing after an employee was asked to leave because she was wearing a hijab. Stefanae Coleman, 22, told CBS News on Thursday that she felt “disrespected” when her manager and her co-workers at the Chicken Express restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, asked her to take off the hijab.
“You shouldn’t have to retrain people to respect people’s religion because that’s something people should already have knowledge of,” she told CBS News
Coleman said she converted to Islam in August and was hired by Chicken Express in October. She said she told her co-workers she would start wearing a hijab soon. But when she started wearing it on Monday, she said, she was not welcomed by her co-workers.
She said her manager told her she could only wear “Chicken Express-branded” clothing. She said she took off her jacket and purse, but her manager called her into his office. In a video she posted on Twitter on Tuesday, a manager told her the hijab did not follow the company dress code. “Your job is your job,” the manager told her in the widely-shared video.
Coleman told CBS News that he told her if she didn’t take off her hijab, she would have to leave. But she said “I was saying, ‘what you’re doing is wrong, you’re sending me home and and the reason is invalid.'”
Coleman said that a friend told her to upload video of the incident to Twitter. “This is discrimination at its finest! I will not tolerate this at all,” Coleman wrote in a follow-up tweet.
In a statement to CBS News, Rhett Warren, an attorney for the Chicken Express franchise owner, said they had apologized to Coleman and the manager’s comments were due to a “lack of training.”
“The manager was using a strict interpretation of the company policy that does not allow derivations from the standard employee uniform, and he unfortunately did not take religious liberty into consideration,” Warren said.
Warren said Chicken Express will be offering more training and the manager has been reprimanded for the incident. Warren said Coleman was paid for the day.
The Dallas / Fort Worth chapter of the Council on Islamic Relations, which is representing Coleman, said in a statement they will be offering diversity training for Chicken Express.
“We are concerned whenever any worker is denied her or his constitutionally-protected religious rights in the workplace,” said CAIR-DFW Executive Director Faizan Syed. “We hope to work with Chicken Express to ensure that this type of incident does not reoccur.”
Coleman said the store manager called and apologized, so she returned on Tuesday. But “as soon as I walked in, I could feel the tension,” she said. She said that although the store manager had then asked for her help re-writing the employee handbook so it wouldn’t include discrimination, she ended up asking the store owner if she could go home because her fellow co-workers were not supportive.
“I just didn’t want to be in that environment,” she said.
Coleman said she’s not sure what she is going to do next, because she doesn’t think she can return and Chicken Express took her off the schedule.
“I’m just going to keep pushing forward,” she said.
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