FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Owners and management of a Chicken Express restaurant in Fort Worth are apologizing after an employee was asked to leave because she was wearing a hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women.
Stefanae Coleman, 22, told CBS News that she felt “disrespected” when her manager and co-workers 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 said.
Coleman said she converted to Islam a few months before being hired by Chicken Express last year. She said she told her co-workers she would start wearing a hijab soon. But when she started wearing it she said she was made to feel unwelcome at her job.
According to Coleman, her manager told to ‘Take off anything that doesn’t involve Chicken Express,’ so she took off her jacket and purse. She was then called into the business 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.
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
Coleman told CBS News that the manager 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.'”
In a statement 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. Coleman was also paid for the hours she would have worked on Monday had she not been sent home.
The Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is representing Coleman, said in a statement they will be offering diversity training for Chicken Express.
Coleman said the store manager called and apologized, so she returned to work the next day. But “as soon as I walked in, I could feel the tension,” she said. She said that although the store manager had 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 has taken her off the work schedule.