After converting from Christianity to Islam, a Muslim woman made requests for religious accommodation at her McDonald’s job. Soon after, she filed a lawsuit claiming that the manager made several Islamophobic remarks and sexually harassed her.
Diamond Powell, 28, says that when she was a Christian woman, working at a McDonald’s in the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport was without issue. As soon as she converted to Islam, however, she claims that she suffered immediate persecution for her newfound faith.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Powell decided to sue a McDonald’s franchise owner in Maryland for religious discrimination and sexual harassment. The woman accused her former employer and coworkers of repeatedly making Islamophobic statements and questions concerning her Muslim beliefs.
Powell admitted that she initially received all of the religious accommodations she requested, such as an allowance to wear her hijab on the clock and special prayer breaks. However, she alleged that even these accommodations were inconsistently applied.
Powell said that she was scolded by management for taking obligatory prayer breaks and was forced to pray in a dirty storage room instead of being allowed to find a quiet, secluded area in the airport to meditate. She claimed that a supervisor ultimately threatened to fire her if she continued to “practice her faith in the workplace,” which prompted her to quit, according to the Associated Press.
Powell’s lawsuit alleges that a manager ordered her to “take that hoodie off,” referring to her hijab. She claims that another manager told her, “You don’t have to wait for God to wake up for you to pray,” which she believes was an Islamophobic statement. The lawsuit also insists that “her prayer breaks lasted no longer than a typical bathroom break.”
Powell claims that the general manager had initially allowed her to take her obligatory prayer breaks before revoking the accommodation and telling her, “God will understand.” The lawsuit alleges that this move violated the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“By doing so, the general manager forced Powell to choose between continuing her employment with McDonald’s or sacrificing her sincerely-held religious beliefs,” the suit says.
Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Powell suffered sexual harassment on her shifts from both managers and coworkers. She claims that she was asked if she was a virgin and that shift managers made sexually explicit remarks toward her.
“No Muslim woman should ever, ever experience what I went through, and I hope this lawsuit will help other Muslim women,” Powell said.
Susdewitt Management owner Isaac Green, who is at the center of the lawsuit, refuted Powell’s accusations but acknowledged that his company was investigating her allegations and would “respond accordingly.”
“We pride ourselves on our diverse workforce, and we have policies in place to provide a welcoming workplace and to respect the accommodations employees may need for religious reasons,” Green said in a statement.
Diamond Powell obtained the legal assistance of CAIR attorneys to pursue the lawsuit. She believes she experienced a hostile work environment and was discriminated against based on her faith and sex.
Powell’s lawsuit is just one of many that accuse business owners of anti-Islamic practices. The business owners are often unable to share their accounts in the face of such serious allegations as pending investigations and lawsuits prevent them from doing so.