Press Release 08-19-2020

McDonald’s Franchisor Settles EEOC Religious Discrimination Suit

Orlando Restaurant Refused to Accommodate Religious Practices of Jewish Maintenance Worker Applicant, Federal Agency Charged

ORLANDO, Fla. – Chalfont & Associates Group, Inc., owner of 11 McDonald’s restaurants in the Greater Orlando Central Florida area, has agreed to pay $69,555 and furnish other relief to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, McDonald’s refused to hire a Jewish applicant as a part-time maintenance worker because, due to his religious practices, he would not shave his beard to comply with McDonald’s “completely clean-shaven” grooming policy. The stated purpose of McDonald’s grooming policy was supposedly to convey an “image of wholesome­ness” to the public.

The applicant offered to wear a beard net as a solution but was denied, the EEOC said. Also, after the applicant reported religious discrimination to EEOC, McDonald’s responded by revising its applications to expressly require all applicants to certify that they would comply with the company’s “completely clean-shaven” grooming policy.

Such a denial of an accommodation request violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination based on religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an applicant’s or employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs, unless it poses an undue hardship.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division (EEOC v. Chalfont & Associates Group, Inc. doing business as McDonald’s, Case No. 6:19-cv-01304-Orl-78GJK) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.  

In addition to $69,555 in monetary relief to the applicant, the 2.5-year consent decree requires McDonald’s to amend its grooming policies; conduct live anti-discrimination training; provide written notice to each employee regarding his or her rights under Title VII; report to EEOC any religious accom­modation requests which the company denies; and post notices at all of its restaurants about the lawsuit.

“There is no inherent conflict between personal religious expression and earning a living, and federal law supports that view,” said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District. “Emp­loyers should review their personnel policies to ensure that they permit the reasonable accom­mo­dation of employees’ religious beliefs.”

Bradley Anderson, acting director of the EEOC’s Miami District, added, “No one should be forced to choose between respecting their religious beliefs and obtaining a job when the company can accommodate those beliefs without suffering an undue hardship. We are hopeful that this resolution will prevent future qualified applicants from being denied employment because of their religious beliefs.”

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.