Lenexa Police are investigating after a Chipotle employee says an assistant manager allegedly pulled off her hijab at work.
The 19-year-old woman, who lives in Lenexa and attended Shawnee Mission schools, said the Aug. 9 incident occurred after the assistant manager had asked multiple times to see her hair over the past two months at the Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurant on West 87th Street Parkway.
The Shawnee Mission Post is not naming the woman in order to protect her privacy.
Lenexa Police confirm details of allegations
In an interview, the woman told the Post that wearing the hijab is a strongly held religious belief for her and may other Muslim women, including her cousin, who has also been employed at the same Chipotle franchise and reportedly experienced similar harassment from the same assistant manager.
The woman filed a police report with Lenexa Police, accusing the manager of assault and battery. Both women put in their two-week notices to quit working at Chipotle last week, she said.
Officer Danny Chavez, public information officer for the Lenexa Police Department, confirmed the alleged victim filed a report Aug. 13, and the case is under investigation by a detective and remains ongoing.
A police report which contains a narrative of the alleged incident is not yet approved for public viewing, according to Lenexa Police, but Chavez confirmed that the narrative contains the allegation, date and location information the Post first received from the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR-Kansas, which is offering legal help for the young woman, this week called on the Chipotle restaurant to fire the assistant manager.
Moussa Elbayoumy, chair of CAIR-Kansas, said they also want to press criminal charges, but above all, they want to help the woman protect her civil rights and make sure the assistant manager understands the impact of his behavior.
“Going without the hijab is comparable to another woman being forced to walk naked in the street,” Elbayoumy said, adding that the hijab is a Muslim woman’s expression of modesty. “It’s that strong. That’s why, when someone forces a woman to remove her hijab… it’s humiliating.”
Laurie Schalow, chief corporate affairs officer of Chipotle, said the company is also looking into the incident.
“We are aware of these allegations and are currently conducting an internal investigation,” Schalow said in a statement. “We take this matter incredibly seriously and are working directly with the impacted employees.”
A string of alleged harassment
Starting sometime in July, the assistant manager began allegedly asking the woman if he could see her hair.
She said she responded that she wears the hijab for religious reasons and would not remove it at work.
“The hijab is a commitment to my religion; it’s not just a scarf on my head,” she told the Post. “It represents who I am and how I act. It’s for myself; it’s my personal choice to wear it.”
The assistant manager allegedly repeated that same request while the employee continued working.
After they were closing down for the evening on Monday, Aug. 9, the assistant manager allegedly asked again to see the employee’s hair. After she said no, according to the woman, he forcibly pulled the hijab off her head and exposed the back of her hair.
“I kept telling him, ‘No,’ and thought it would end there,” she said. “I was just begging him to stop, and he just wouldn’t. The day he pulled it off, I just felt so shocked. I felt so exposed and humiliated. If he had the confidence to do that, what else can he do?”
The woman said she had reported the assistant manager’s behavior multiple times, including to a shift manager and to Chipotle’s human resources, but that no one at the company had yet taken action.
“I hope that he actually does understand what he did was very, very wrong,” she said. “And I also want Chipotle to understand and take care of the situation better. My main goal is for people to understand why this is so important to me and other Muslims. I want everyone to feel like they’re comfortable to be who they are and express their own beliefs.”
It’s unclear if the assistant manager accused of pulling off the woman’s hijab remains employed at Chipotle or if he is still working at the Lenexa franchise.