Muslim group asks Subway to apologize for Louisiana incident

Nov. 30, 2012

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties organization, is calling on the Subway restaurant chain to apologize to a Louisiana Muslim allegedly locked out of a sandwich shop in that state because of his faith.

According to a press release, a retired 63-year-old U.S. citizen of South Asian heritage who lives in New Orleans reported to CAIR that on Nov. 21, 2012, he and his wife stopped at a Subway restaurant in Shreveport, La. Before ordering, they went to the restrooms in the facility. The husband exited the restroom first and went outside the restaurant to wait for his wife in anticipation of re-entering to order their food.

While his wife was still inside the restaurant, the victim attempted to re-enter, but was blocked at the door by a female employee who allegedly asked him "Are you Muslim?" When the victim replied that he is indeed Muslim, the employee reportedly responded, "We can't serve you." According to the report, the employee then went inside the restaurant and locked the door behind her. Fearing for his wife's safety and distraught at the violation of his civil rights, the man called 9-1-1.

When the Shreveport Police Department arrived, an officer went inside the restaurant and later came out to tell the victim that the manager was "scared" of him and that he "better leave."

It was noted that the customer is 5'6" and weighs approximately 155 pounds. He wears an Islamic cap, called a "kufi," and a beard for religious reasons. His wife, a teacher, wears an Islamic headscarf, or "hijab."

In a letter to Subway president and CEO Fred DeLuca, CAIR National Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili wrote in part:

"Louisiana Revised Statutes 51:2247 states that it is a 'discriminatory practice for a person to deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodation, resort, or amusement, as defined in this Chapter, on the grounds of race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, disability, as defined in R.S. 51:2232(11), or national origin.' According to the law, a place of public accommodation 'means any place, store, or other establishment, either licensed or unlicensed, which supplies goods or services to the general public.'"

Al-Khalili's letter cited Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on account of religion in places of public accommodation and service. She also referred to the company's diversity policy that claims Subway "does not tolerate discrimination of any kind on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, creed, religion, color or national origin."

A copy of the letter was sent to Chief Willie L. Shaw, Jr. of the Shreveport Police Department and to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.

Specifically, CAIR has requested that Subway:

  • Investigate this incident;
  • Offer a formal written apology to the victim and his wife;
  • Institute policy changes that will ensure that this type of incident does not occur in the future;
  • Offer compensation to the victim and his wife for the humiliation and emotional distress caused by the employee and the police;
  • Participate in a corporate religious sensitivity program for franchise managers.

CAIR has published a letter online requesting that Subway apologize and encouraging people to add their signatures.

One-hundred percent of Subway's restaurants are franchised. Subway, the largest restaurant chain in the world, outlines its customer service expectations, including how to create a positive atmosphere, greet customers with special needs and recognize non-verbal communications, in its operations guidelines. The company also has several online courses on diversity, culture and communications that are available to its 17,000-plus franchisees and their employees.

Read more about operations management.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience , Franchising & Growth , Operations Management , Staffing & Training

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