A young woman worked at a Georgia restaurant for several months before she made the personal choice to convert to Islam. However, once she suddenly showed up to work in a hijab, her employer made a personal decision of his own, which resulted in her filing a discrimination complaint.
Lacey Enevoldsen secured a job serving customers gourmet sandwiches at Farmhaus Burgers in Augusta, Georgia. When she got the job, she had no problem fulfilling the work requirements to which each employee agreed. However, just one year after being hired, she made an abrupt change.
Only three months after starting her job at the restaurant, Enevoldsen revealed to coworkers that she had made the decision to convert to Islam. The Augusta Chronicle reports that Enevoldsen began showing up to her shifts in a hijab.
The newly converted Muslim woman was shocked when her boss, Sean Wight, allegedly took issue with her sudden decision to make a change to her workplace attire. According to Enevoldsen, Wight told her that she had to remove the unapproved headscarf or he would have to move her from serving customers to working in the kitchen.
She claims that he told her he wasn’t “a fan of Muslims” and equated the hijab to support for the Taliban. However, she admits that he ultimately agreed to let her wear a specific style of headwrap that complied with safety and hygiene regulations.
Enevoldsen alleges that the final straw was when Wight rolled his eyes upon seeing her hijab, prompting her to ultimately quit her job. However, she wasn’t about to move on quietly from the incident.
“As much as I loved the establishment and loved the guests, I did end up leaving,” Enevoldsen said. “After leaving, it was a relief. That was finally off my shoulders and I did get very lucky to come in contact with CAIR.”
Enevoldsen acquired the assistance of the Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which helped her to file a lawsuit against Wight for religious discrimination in the workplace. Chapter executive director Edward Ahmed Mitchell took to the media to accuse Wight of “Islamophobia.”
“We are here today to discuss an important subject and that is the subject of employment harassment, employment discrimination, bigotry in the workplace. She experienced discrimination. She experienced harassment in the workplace, but she has been willing to come forward, to file a complaint, to speak up and to let the public know what was done to her, so God willingly, does not happen to anyone after her,” Mitchell said.
Wight has denied harboring any bigotry and accused Enevoldsen of falsifying her claims. Due to the lawsuit, he wasn’t able to speak as openly as his former employee about the alleged incident.
“It would be inappropriate for us to discuss the details of a personnel issue, and it is disappointing that this former employee is choosing to spread lies and distort the facts. Throughout my entire professional life, at every restaurant I’ve worked at or owned, I’ve encouraged and promoted diversity,” Wight states. “People of all sexual orientation, races and of multiple religious affiliations have worked harmoniously together. That’s a fact, not an opinion or interpretation of events.”
Ultimately, Wight broke down and agreed to settle outside of court, knowing that he would likely be financially ruined via the court process even if he won his case, WFXG reports. The details of the settlement remain undisclosed.
Although Enevoldsen only referenced her hijab as an issue, others were concerned that her demands might grow with her newfound faith. Would she soon refuse to cook, handle, or serve customers a burger that contained bacon? Would she cite her religion as an excuse for declining to serve customers alcohol?
Wight may have dodged a bullet in settling with Enevoldsen outside of a lawsuit. While the young woman may have gotten what she wanted out of the agreement, it’s more likely that she harmed other Muslims’ chances to work at local restaurants by sparking fear into employers that they too will become the targets of crippling lawsuits.