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Fast food worker sent home for refusing to take her hijab off at work

3 months 4 days 11 hours ago Thursday, January 02 2020 Jan 2, 2020 January 02, 2020 10:00 AM January 02, 2020 in News
Source: CNN
Stefanae Coleman Photo: CNN

An employee of a Chicken Express restaurant in Texas says she was discriminated against when her manager sent her home for refusing to remove her hijab, which is a headscarf that many Muslim women choose to wear as a part of their religious beliefs. 

Stefanae Coleman, 22, said she's been working at Chicken Express for three months and is a recent convert to Islam.

So, on Monday, she showed up at her job wearing her hijab for the very first time.  

Coleman said she was excited to don the headscarf and hopeful that her co-workers would be supportive.

Instead of feeling supported, Coleman told CNN she felt "disrespected, baffled, and highly upset."

"Once I clocked in, the manager said, 'Take off anything that doesn't involve Chicken Express,' which I knew he was talking about my hijab," Coleman said.

"So, I didn't react. I just went to the back and took off my jacket and my purse. Five minutes later, he called me into the office telling me that I have to take it off because it's not a part of the work uniform."

The manager told her, ""The job requires a specific uniform. (The hijab) is not a part of the uniform; you as a paid employee cannot wear it."

CNN maintains that the company's handbook does not reference the headscarf or any other religious clothing. 

But it does state that "only the Chicken Express hats or visors may be worn."

Unlike a hat, which may be removed, most Muslim women who choose to wear the hijab consider it a religious obligation. They do not remove it around men who are not members of their immediate family. 

The manager sent Coleman home and a lawyer representing the franchise says this was a "mistake" and that Coleman "is not facing discrimination for her decision to wear a headscarf or for being Muslim."

Coleman was paid for the hours she would have worked had she not been sent home. In addition to this, the store plans to rewrite its dress code and enhance training so other employees who choose to wear religious clothing know they're free to do so. 

Coleman returned to work the next day and received an apology from the store's owner.  

But she says the entire experience left her unsettled.

"I just would have never thought that this would ever happen to me," Coleman said. "I see it all the time on the news, but never once did I even think that I would get sent home because of it."

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