Chipotle Faces Lawsuit Over Religious Harassment Claims From Former Employee

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Famed quick-service Mexican eatery, Chipotle, is presently embroiled in a legal dispute, following a lawsuit brought forth by a federal office in support of a previous worker. She alleged that she endured persistent harassment on religious grounds from her superior due to her choice to wear a hijab.

Areej Saifan, a Muslim woman formerly in the employ of a Chipotle establishment in Lenexa, Kansas, is the subject of the religious harassment and retaliation litigation, launched on Wednesday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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Saifan clarified that she adorned the hijab in line with her religious convictions and was unable to remove it; however, the provocation persisted for several weeks with continued efforts geared at coercing her to forgo her hijab; this was the contention of the federal suit.

The suit went further to reveal that an assistant manager, who subjected Saifan to recurring harassments, had ventured to ask her to take off her hijab roughly ten to fifteen times within a month. It was reported that, in one instance, the assistant manager physically reached out and forcefully tugged at her hijab, which led to a part of it coming off to reveal Saifan’s hair.

Saifan recounted the worrisome repeated actions of the assistant manager to a shift supervisor. Although the supervisor once told the assistant manager to desist, they reportedly failed to take it up with higher management, the suit stated.

The suit further highlighted the repeated inefficiencies of the management team in handling the harassments, which eventually compelled Saifan to tender her resignation, alongside a two-week notice, on the 10th of August, 2021.

Despite Chipotle’s standard procedure of regularly scheduling duties for employees serving their two-week notice, Saifan was reportedly exempted, without any new shifts following her notice.

In a statement to CNN, Laurie Schalow, the Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for Chipotle said, “We adopt a zero tolerance stance towards any form of discrimination and have dismissed the employee implicated in this case. Chipotle thrives on the dedication and hard work of our employees, and we expedite investigations and swift action on complaints lodged by any personnel, including anonymous tip-offs via an 800 number, in order to set things right.”

The suit also revealed that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is pressing for a jury trial in Kansas City, complete with “appropriate backpay with prejudgment interest,” and other considerations.

An official release by the agency quoted Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s St. Louis District office: “Religious individuals are legally entitled to a workplace devoid of harassment proliferated by their religious beliefs and lifestyle. It is totally unacceptable to harass women and teenage girls who opt to adhere to their faith by wearing modest clothes or head scarfs.”