A Texas restaurant worker said her manager sent her home for refusing to take off her hijab.
Stefanae Coleman, 22, claims she faced religious discrimination after her manager at Chicken Express told her she had to go home if she didn’t take off her hijab, citing dress code requirements.
The single mom recently converted to Islam and decided to wear her hijab to work for the first time on Monday before she was told to “take off anything that doesn’t involve Chicken Express,” CNN reported.
"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," she told CNN.
Coleman, who had worked at Chicken Express for three months, recorded parts of her conversation with the manager in two videos that she tweeted.
“Your job is your job,” the manager said in the video. “Your job has nothing to do with religion."
I converted to Islam not too long ago and I started wearing my hijab, I went to work today and was kicked out because my hijab was not apart the “ dress code” apparently and I wasn’t allowed to wear it. Don’t come to the chicken express in Fort Worth!! pic.twitter.com/xiulAEJS8y— Folake Adebola (@naemuulaa) December 30, 2019
The manager consulted with two others before deciding to send her home. He declined to comment to CNN.
CNN reviewed the restaurant’s employee handbook and noted it does not mention headscarves or other religious clothing but says only Chicken Express hats and visors can be worn.
Rhett Warren, an attorney for Chicken Express, said the manager’s decision to send Coleman home was a “mistake” and due to “lack of training.” He said Coleman is not facing discrimination for wearing the headscarf or for being Muslim.
"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,” he said in a statement obtained by The Hill.
Warren added Coleman was paid for Monday’s shift as if she had worked, and the company plans to clarify the employee handbook and conduct training that Coleman is welcomed to help develop.
Coleman told CNN that the store owner contacted her to apologize, and she returned the next day but faced harassment from coworkers over the incident. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is representing Coleman.
“We are concerned whenever any worker is denied her or his constitutionally-protected religious rights in the workplace,” Faizan Syed, the executive director of CAIR in Texas, said in a statement. “We hope to work with Chicken Express to ensure that this type of incident does not reoccur.”
Updated at 2:49 p.m.