Muslim woman denied job at Detroit McDonald's files complaint

DETROIT ( April 15, 2010 ) 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 McDonald's official said their restaurant chain does not discriminate and has accommodated religious headwear for years.

Nasihah Barlaskar, 19, wears an Islamic head scarf 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 told Barlaskar she probably wouldn't be able to wear that if she was working, according to Barlaskar.

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.

Joan Rachelson, director of operations for McDonald's Michigan region, said in a statement that the restaurant has a "strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination."

She said the allegations "are not consistent with our policies."

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 a 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.

Rachelson, the McDonald's official, said: "It is never our intention to offend anyone. ... 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."

© Detroit Free Press; Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, 2010


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