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EEOC Sues Subway on Behalf of Manager Fired for Wearing Nose Ring

In EEOC v Papin Enters Inc, the Federal Middle District Court of Florida recently ruled, that the EEOC could proceed to trial with its lawsuit alleging that a Florida corporation which franchised the Subway sandwich shop brand and one of its franchisees violated Title VII by failing to accommodate an employee who wore a nose ring pursuant to her religious beliefs. The employee worked as an assistant manager at one of the two Subway shops owned by the franchisee.

The franchisor denied the franchise owner‘s request on behalf of the employee for an exemption to the franchisor’s no-facial-jewelry policy because it was not satisfied with the documentation the employee submitted regarding her religious beliefs. After the employee refused to provide additional documentation and refused to remove the nose ring while working, she was terminated.

In denying the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, the court rejected their contention that the employee refused an accommodation, finding that neither of the franchisor owner’s proposed accommodations—that she cover her nose with a Band-Aid while working or that she leave the store when inspectors arrived—would resolve the conflict between her religious observance and the no-facial-jewelry policy. The court also determined that factual issues existed as to whether accommodating the employee’s beliefs would be an undue hardship.

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