LAURINBURG — Two Laurinburg-based corporations that operate a chain of Kentucky Fried Restaurants in North Carolina and South Carolina are being sued by the state Equal Opportunity Commission on behalf of an employee who said she was fired when she insisted on wearing a skirt in accordance with her Pentecostal faith.
The commission filed the discrimination lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina against Scottish Food Systems Inc. and Laurinburg KFC Take Home Inc.on Sept. 19 on behalf of Sheila Silver, an employee of various KFC restaurants since 1992 who was allegedly fired this year when the corporations purchased the Rocky Mount location at which she was working and required her to conform to the company’s dress code by wearing pants.
According to the commission, Silver has not worn pants since converting in 2010 to the religion, which teaches women should only wear skirts or dresses. Silver told the corporations that she could not abide by the company’s dress code because of her religious beliefs and was ultimately fired because of it, the commission said.
The corporations “violated federal law by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and firing her because of her religion,” the lawsuit states. The commission also said it had tried unsuccessfully to reach a “voluntary settlement” with the company and will seek back pay and compensatory and punitive damages. The suit also seeks a permanent injunction, a court order that would essentially allow female Pentecostal employees to wear skirts while working at locations managed by the corporations.
Thomas Broome, president of Scottish Food Systems, declined to comment for this story.
“Employers must respect employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs and carefully consider requests made by employees based on those beliefs,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the the commission’s Charlotte District Office, in a statement.
Scottish Food Systems manages 27 Kentucky Fried and four Pizza Inn restaurants in North Carolina and South Carolina, including those in Laurinburg, Elizabethtown, Rockingham, Lumberton, Pembroke, Red Springs, Cheraw and Wadesboro.