The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed an employment discrimination suit against a Burger King franchisee for firing a cashier after she showed up to work wearing a skirt. The cashier is a member of the Christian Pentecostal church. The woman told managers that her faith required her to wear gender-appropriate clothing while at work — specifically, a skirt instead of the standard-issue Burger King uniform pants.

The woman explained her dress-code position to the hiring manager, who appeared to not have an issue with the employee’s request in the interview. However, when the employee came to work wearing a skirt on her first day, store management said her attire was inappropriate and told her leave the store.

The EEOC alleges that the franchisee violated federal anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC asserts that the franchisee failed to accommodate the woman’s beliefs, and the accommodation was especially warranted because it would not have cost a penny for the franchisee. On behalf of the employee, the EEOC is requesting back pay as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s anti-discrimination laws, employers must accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs. Moreover franchisors like Burger King can be held liable for discriminatory actions taken by their franchisees. People face religious discrimination at work more often than many people might realize — in fact, in 2011, the EEOC logged more than 4,000 complaints of religious discrimination around the country.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “Grand Prairie Burger King Franchisee Sued by EEOC for Religious Discrimination,” Aug. 22, 2012