- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - An Ocala man has filed a religious discrimination complaint claiming that he was not allowed to wear an Islamic head covering while working as a restaurant server.

In his complaint, Marlondejuan Guy told the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a manager at a franchise-owned Denny’s restaurant in Ocala told him in September 2014 that he was prohibited from working day shifts because he wore a kufi.

He said he later received a letter threatening him with termination for violating the restaurant’s dress code policy. He was subsequently fired.

Guy said in a phone interview with The Associated Press that he was the restaurant’s only Muslim, and the only server denied working day shifts. He said he initially started out on day shifts during the more than six weeks he worked at the restaurant, but that treatment by management quickly changed.

“The first two days everything seemed OK,” he said. “The next thing I know the treatment was getting worse and worse. Surprised isn’t the word. I was flabbergasted.”

The Ocala franchise owner, EYM Diner LLC, said in a statement that the kufi was not the basis of Guy’s firing.

“We do follow the brand standards regarding restaurant uniforms and uniform accommodation requests,” the statement said. “The allegations made by Mr. Guy do not contain all the facts and do not reflect the real reason for termination. We are confident that in a legal proceeding we will be cleared of any discrimination.”

In a separate statement, Denny’s corporate office said it is reviewing the allegations.

“At Denny’s, we value our diverse employee base and are committed to treating all team members with dignity and respect,” the statement said. “While we have policies regarding uniforms, we certainly have a process for deviation from uniform standards, including religious accommodation requests. We do not tolerate actions of discrimination and we take any finding to the contrary very seriously.”

As the result of his termination, Guy said he struggled to pay bills, was evicted and briefly had to move his pregnant wife and 2-year-old daughter - who needed electricity to undergo daily treatments for severe asthma and bronchitis - into a women’s shelter.

Michael Hanna, an attorney representing Guy, said the case is reminiscent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June in favor of a Muslim woman who didn’t get hired by Abercrombie & Fitch after showing up wearing a religious headscarf, also known as a hijab.

“Based on my estimation, that’s as direct as it gets,” Hanna said. “I think there is clearly established precedent. … If the allegations are correct, I think it’s a clear case of religious discrimination by the Denny’s franchise.”

Hanna said he will be pursuing all legal recourses for Guy, including a potential lawsuit against Denny’s.

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Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/khightower


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