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Workplace discrimination filed against IHOP over religious bias

Colorado residents may be familiar with the breakfast food chain International House of Pancakes, or IHOP. The popular restaurant chain has 1,550 locations throughout the nation and even internationally. But IHOP is currently facing an employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court. The litigation is based on the claims of four former employees who say they were wrongfully fired because of their religion.

The four men, who practice the Islamic faith, brought their case against IHOP and several franchise owners in Texas, where the men were employed. One of the men stated that he had worked for IHOP for over 10 years.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission already conducted an investigation and concluded that "violations have occurred."

Involving the EEOC in a complaint is only one step in an employment discrimination case. State and federal laws intersect on the issue, and the way a discrimination claim is filed depends on the state in which the discrimination took place.

In Colorado, an employee must file a workplace discrimination claim with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, or the EEOC, before a civil lawsuit can be pursued. The claim must also be filed within 300 days of the alleged discrimination.

The four men involved in the IHOP lawsuit say they cannot find work due to their reputations being damaged over the firings. As many Coloradans know, during the hiring process, employers often require applicants to reveal whether they were previously terminated from a position. An affirmative answer to such a question can negatively impact the chance of being hired. To overcome the reputation damage, the men are seeking letters of recommendation from IHOP as part of the litigation.

In addition, the men have requested that IHOP create a diversity team and provide employees with sensitivity training.

Source: NBCDFW, "IHOP Faces Discrimination Lawsuit," Andres Gutierrez, April 18, 2012

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