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CAIR Files Lawsuit Challenging Maryland Employer’s Denial of Prayer Accommodations, Sexual and Religious Harassment

(WASHINGTON, DC, 8/13/20) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today held an online news conference to announce the filing of a lawsuit in Maryland federal court on behalf of a Maryland Muslim woman who was denied the right to pray by her employer, a McDonald’s franchise, located in Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where management and employees continually harassed her as soon as she converted to Islam, began wearing the hijab, and asked for an accommodation to pray. 

Watch CAIR’s News Conference: 

CAIR to Announce Federal Lawsuit Challenging Denial of Right to Pray, Religious and Sexual Harassment of Maryland Muslim McDonald's Employee

Join us live at 12:45 p.m. ET! Our lawyers will hold an online news conference to announce the filing of a lawsuit in Maryland federal court on behalf of a Muslim woman allegedly harassed because of her religion and gender, and forbidden by her employer — a McDonald’s franchisee — from praying. WHO: Diamond Powell, CAIR clientLena Masri, CAIR National Litigation & Civil Rights Director Zanah Ghalawanji, CAIR Staff Attorney Zainab Chaudry, Director, CAIR Office in Maryland

Posted by CAIR on Thursday, August 13, 2020

In its lawsuit, CAIR wrote in part:  

“Powell’s request does not constitute undue hardship upon Defendant or otherwise affect Defendant’s business operations. Other employees took equivalent-in-time breaks for nonreligious reasons that Defendant allowed; and fast food restaurants across the country grant Muslim workers the short prayer breaks Defendant did allow Powell to take.” 

“Powell could have continued to work and perform the duties of her job had her request for an accommodation been honored. Defendant did not engage in any interactive or good faith process regarding Powell’s sincerely-held religious beliefs. Instead Defendant refused to provide reasonable religious accommodations.” 

“Defendant and its employees subjected Powell to harassment on the basis of her religion, Islam. That harassment was severe and pervasive and created a hostile work environment.” 

“When Powell was Christian, Powell did not experience discrimination or harassment. Only when Powell converted to Islam, began wearing the hijab, and submitted religious accommodation requests did she experience discrimination and harassment.”   

CAIR is seeking an injunction prohibiting the McDonald’s franchise from discriminating against its employees on the basis of religion, sex or race, and an order to allow accommodation for prayer breaks, payment for economic damages and emotional harm, along with punitive damages and legal costs.  

Read CAIR’s Lawsuit:

News conference participants included:

  • Diamond Powell, Plaintiff and former McDonald’s employee  
  • Zainab Chaudry, CAIR Maryland Office Outreach Director 
  • Lena Masri, CAIR National Litigation Attorney and Civil Rights Director 
  • Zanah Ghalawanji, CAIR Staff Attorney   

“We’ve given McDonald’s ample opportunity to correct its toxic work environment and Islamophobic practices and policies. McDonald’s has a duty to provide reasonable religious accommodations. It cannot deny employees the right to take short prayer breaks while allowing other employees smoke and bathroom breaks,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Zanah Ghalawanji.  Lena Masri, CAIR National Litigation and Civil Rights Director added that “McDonald’s discriminatory motives are clear and we intend to ensure Susdewitt complies with the law moving forward.”  

“It is inconceivable that a business allows employees to subject its female Muslim employees to religiously and sexually harassing comments without repercussion,” said CAIR Maryland Outreach Director Zainab Chaudry. “We commend Ms. Powell for coming forward and holding McDonald’s accountable for its hostile treatment of Muslim women.” 

CAIR has reported an unprecedented spike in bigotry targeting American Muslims, immigrants and members of other minority groups since the election of Donald Trump as president.    

The Washington-based civil rights organization offers a booklet, called “An Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” to help employers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the workplace.    

CAIR: An Employer’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices    

CAIR’s mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.    

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.    

END   CONTACT:  CAIR Staff Attorney Zanah Ghalawanji, 202-516-4733,; CAIR Maryland Outreach Director Zainab Chaudry, 443-251-2132,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,

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