Chipotle has agreed to settle an employment religious discrimination case with the California Department Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”), the state administrative agency that handles discrimination complaints involving a former line worker who alleged he was terminated for requesting a religious accommodation.
The former employee filed a charge with the DFEH on April 21, 2018 alleging that Chipotle failed to accommodate his religious practice which required him to wear a religious bracelet at all times. The manager sent home the complainant when he refused to remove the bracelet worn by adherents of his Santeria Ochosi faith. A manager at another location had accommodated this exact same request previously.
The DFEH found cause to believe a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) had occurred and referred the case to mandatory mediation at which time the claim was settled for $20,000, and Chiptole agreed to provide religious discrimination prevention training to human resources staff and develop a policy for all California locations to govern religious practices that require accommodations in the workplace.
California law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious dress and grooming practices, unless they impose an undue hardship on the employer. Accommodating the line worker’s request to wear a religious bracelet imposed no hardship at all on Chipotle. The most important lesson learned here is to train management to call human resources and counsel to discuss accommodations and engage in the required interactive process. Now that the worker pocketed $20,000 for his manager’s illegal conduct, if any adverse employment action is taken against him following this incident, he will have a colorable claim of retaliation against Chiptole.
For more information on handling accommodation requests and avoiding discrimination and retaliation claims, please contact Lisa Sherman at (424) 249-3631 or [email protected].