Federal agency sues Orlando-area McDonald's over religious rights

Hasidic Jewish applicant refused to shave beard, was not hired

LONGWOOD, Fla. – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the owners of an Orlando-area McDonald's restaurant, claiming managers violated a man's rights by refusing to hire him.

The lawsuit claims the man was told he had to shave his beard in order to be hired, but he told managers he was a Hasidic Jew and was not allowed to shave it.

The suit claims the man applied to be a maintenance worker at the McDonald's restaurant located at 900 W. State Road 434 in Longwood in September of 2016.

The EEOC said the manager told the man, "he had the job, but would need to shave his beard to be in compliance with McDonald's grooming and appearance policy."

According to the lawsuit, that policy reads: "All employees must be completely clean shaven."

The lawsuit claims the man "explained that he could not shave his beard because of his religious beliefs," and "offered to wear a beard net."

The manager said, "he could not hire him because doing so would violate McDonald's policies and the law," according to the lawsuit.

"It’s seen as part of an expression of your faith," said Rabbi David Kay with Congregation Ohev Shalom in Maitland.

News 6 showed him the lawsuit, and he said many groups within the Jewish faith, such as Hasidic Jews, do not shave their beards because they see it as going against Scripture.

Kay said he applauded the government for intervening and said he saw this lawsuit as a teaching moment.

"Anytime we have the opportunity to expand our awareness and understanding of how faith traditions express themselves, I think that’s a plus," he said.

The lawsuit is seeking back wages for the man in the amount of three years.

News 6 left messages for the McDonald's franchise owner, Chalfont and Associates Group, and emailed McDonald's corporate offices.

Neither has responded.

About the Author: