A South Florida Muslim woman has hired a lawyer after claiming she was refused service at a Boca Raton gas station because of her religion.
La Fleur Mohamed said she was humiliated in the incident at a Chevron gas station.
"Very painful, very painful -- (I) felt really embarrassed," she said.
Mohamed said the attendant refused to let her fill up because she wears niqab, or face veil, because of her religion. She claimed the attendant threw the money back at her and told her to leave.
“I said, ‘Excuse me, but this is my religious right.’ She said, ‘Well, I need to see you.’ I said, ‘No, you don’t. Please just give me $20 on pump No. 1,’ and that’s when she just threw my money back at me,” Mohamed said.
Mohamed called 911 and a police officer showed up, but the attendant wouldn’t change her mind.
“He went in and asked her why she’s not serving me, and she said that it’s company policy not to serve people like me,” Mohamed said.
Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office records state Mohamed did not have enough gas to get to another station.
Dispatch also told arriving deputies, "They are refusing to give her gas because of her religion."
Mohamed said Chevron officials apologized but claimed they found no evidence of discrimination, and she hired a lawyer, Wilfredo Ruiz.
“In this particular case, when somebody’s escorted by law enforcement and asked to be served and what she hears is a refusal, there’s no doubt that this is a violation of Title 2 of the Civil Rights Act,” Ruiz said.
Mohamed is also taking her complaint to the Florida Commission on Human Relations, a state agency that is now investigating.
“I need people to be aware that we are here. We’re Americans, and we deserve the same right, the same treatment as everyone else,” Mohamed said.
Mohamed said she wants an apology and for Chevron to launch a discrimination training program for employees.
In response, Chevron spokesman Brent Tippen released the following statement:
"Chevron continues to take Ms. Mohamed’s allegations seriously.
"In response to the incident which occurred in October last year, we conducted a thorough investigation. We spoke with our employee cashier and reviewed the store surveillance tape. The incident occurred within a few days of Halloween -- a time when retailers are prone to increased theft from persons wearing masks and other facial coverings. In light of this concern, we acknowledge that our employee did ask Ms. Mohamed to remove her veil for security purposes; when she refused, she was denied service.
"We fully believe that our employee acted without the intent to violate Ms. Mohamed’s religious principles and any suggestion that discrimination is acceptable at Chevron is completely false. Chevron employs 60,000 people from countries across the globe. Our Human Rights policy requires that we treat all people with respect and dignity.
"Regardless, we regret the misunderstanding. We have apologized twice to Ms. Mohamed and encouraged our employees to be more aware of potential diversity issues."
Local 10 asked Tippen, if the employee thought Mohamed was going to steal or that she was dressed for Halloween, how would he explain the attendant refusing to serve Mohamed when the Palm Beach County deputy was there, vouching that Mohamed was a legitimate customer? Tippen responded:
"The cashier was asked by the police officer about the issue. The cashier indicated that she was following publicly posted instructions to ask customers to remove masks or other facial coverings for security camera purposes. This is consistent with Chevron’s focus on safety for both its employees and customers. The officer was only inquiring about the cashier’s decision, not to assist with the transaction.
"Again we acknowledge that this incident was a misunderstanding. It is not our policy to deny service to customers based on their religious dress. Ms. Mohamed would be served if she came into one of our stores tomorrow."