First day at McDonald’s job, teen told to shave his beard against his religion

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A teen’s beard sparked a controversy in the workplace: a Muslim employee told FOX 17 that after he explained he could not shave for religious reasons, his managers at a Grand Rapids McDonald’s told him to “go home and shave,” and refused to give him a beard net.

“Religion comes before everything,” said Shujaa Wright. “I wouldn’t shave my beard to work at McDonald’s or any place.”

For Wright, 16, religion is an everyday practice, and it has been for years: as he showed FOX 17 a family picture taken at a 2011 Ramadan celebration.

“Whenever somebody asks me, ‘are you Muslim?’ I say it with pride on my chest.  I’m like, ‘Yes I am: I pray five times per day, I follow the Quran and Sunnah, I follow the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him,'” said Wright.

Wright recently landed his first job at the McDonald’s on Kalamazoo Avenue SE and 60th Street SE. As part of his devotion, Wright said he has never shaved his facial hair, which is something that goes against work policy.

However, starting at orientation Monday, Wright said managers gave him mixed messages.

“We went through orientation, then I got my uniform, then at the end of orientation they’re like, ‘You have to shave your beard,’” Wright said. “Then I told them 'I can’t shave it because for my religion.' Then the lady was like ‘Oh it’s alright, you don’t have to, you’ll be fine.”

Then Tuesday, his first day on the job, Wright said two restaurant managers turned him away from work.

“I told [my manager,] I was like I can’t shave it for my religion,” Wright said. “Then he said, ‘well then you can’t work here if you don’t shave your beard.’ Then I said, ‘well can I get,’ [making beard gesture] and I didn’t even say a beard net, he said, ‘No. We don’t provide beard nets here.’”

Wright and his mother Mayra Cabrera agreed with company health codes, but believed a beard net is an adequate accommodation. Cabrera believed this McDonald’s gave her son an ultimatum.

“Before I could even finish anything, [the McDonald’s manager] says, ‘Ma’am, I’m telling you right now, no McDonald’s in Grand Rapids is going to provide a beard net, we just don’t do it,’” Cabrera said. “And I said to him, ‘So he’s fired?’ And he said, ‘Oh no, he’s not fired, if he shaves his beard, he can come back to work.’”

Yet apparently, company policy reflects religious accommodation. The McDonald’s franchisee, Wiseman LLC, opted to have its spokesperson Ginny Seyferth release this statement to FOX 17:

“After he was hired, our employee shared with us that he wishes to grow a beard in conjunction with his religious beliefs.  Pursuant to our policy, we are happy to accommodate his request by allowing him to wear a beard guard, which we will provide.  We have reached out to him to explain this and look forward to his continued employment with our company.”

Also over the phone, Seyferth told FOX 17 that they may require Wright to sign a document stating he is Muslim.

As for Wright, he said he will apply for future jobs with a new outlook.

“I look at the employees there, see if they have beards first, and if not, then I’d ask, ‘do you guys provide beard nets, or would I have to shave my beard?’” said Wright.

In response to this statement, Cabrera told FOX 17 that McDonald’s management called her son in class Friday, and then he asked to speak with them after school. However, she and Wright said he is no longer interested in working at this McDonald’s.

As for this case, this is not the first incident of its kind at a McDonald’s. In 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District Court of California on behalf on a Muslim employee. When the restaurant refused to accommodate the employee’s religious belief to wear a beard a work, the employee was “constructively discharged.”

Among other things, McDonald’s paid the employee $50,000 in settlement.

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27 comments

    • Markey

      This comment makes me laugh because the kid is American. Black/Puerto Rican. Nice to know the country turns its back on its own citizens when they choose to follow their personal beliefs. Another disgusting human being.

  • Anthony

    Then don’t work at McDonald’s, you don’t have to work there, and they don’t have to employ you, they can do as they wish. A beard is a part of your religion? Seriously..? Religion is a joke and is destroying this country.

    • Ekaf Eman

      America is supposed to be a country of religious freedom, one of the basic rights written in the constitution and you’re saying that because he has a beard he has no right to work there? Your ignorance is a joke and destroying this country. Refusing to employ someone based on religious beliefs is ILLEGAL. Are you retarded?

    • JB

      “isn’t the first time this happened”
      “Among other things, McDonald’s paid the employee $50,000 in settlement.”
      Lets face it…he didnt want the job to begin with..he wanted a lawsuit…
      just like Ahmed the “clock” maker, and many others…

    • Markey

      I know this dude personally, and his beard is so small that it’s utterly ridiculous McDonald’s refused to employ him over the whiskers on his chin lol but hey, I say screw it. There’s better jobs out there and he’s a bright kid.

    • Markey

      I feel this article is showing the different views of the ruling of the beard over the different Islamic sects. Just because one group believes the beard can be shaved doesn’t mean the other agrees.

      • Markey

        Times change but religion doesnt, it’s possible that the two can coexist with remarkable success but it only fails when outsiders deny accommodations or alternatives to said beliefs

  • Rose

    I have news for you: Religion no longer excuses ANYONE in America from doing the job or meeting the employers’ requirements. People of other religions learned this years ago when they were required to work Saturdays and Sundays against their religious beliefs, and they are still learning it today. Read the news!

  • David Szleszynski

    IIk the family personally and honestly XD XD XD
    Ppl making negative remarks about stfu and shave Mooslim.
    Guys ssseeriously.
    It’s a big a diverse world.
    And it’s not the early 1900s.
    Mannin this is cool
    My pals bro
    .
    Is on Fox. XD

  • John Mike

    I work at a McDonald’s and that’s their policy. If you don’t agree with it then quit. I had to shave my beard when I started working there. Exceptions shouldn’t be made to accommodate one person, no matter their beliefs or views, plain and simple. Rules are rules….

    • Muslim Power.

      Religion is a lot more important to some people rather then just getting hired to work for someone and going against their beliefs just for some pay. We live to please Allah not to obey and please someone as equal to oneself that have them chose between going against their religion or listening to them.