Companies have the right to expect employees to be neat in appearance and follow a company dress code. Some companies require short hair for men and no one gives it a second thought. Cut your hair or lose your job. In most cases, such policies do not violate discrimination laws.
However, a recent claim submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against Mims Distributing Company challenged the company’s failure to hire a male Rastafarian who had not cut his hair since 2009. He belonged to a religious order that requires men to wear long hair. He applied for a delivery driver position in 2014 and was told to come back after he cut his hair. Even after explaining that his long hair was part of his religion, Mims said they could not hire him because he failed to comply with their company grooming policy.
Under Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers must accommodate employees’ religious beliefs and the only allowable exception is if doing so creates undue hardship on the company. In this case, the EEOC failed to see that the company would suffer undue hardship and attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement based on the claim.
A settlement was reached and the company agreed to pay $50,000 and agreed to a two-year consent decree to adopt a formal religious accommodation policy and an annual program on Title VII requirements and the prohibition of religious discrimination.
It is wise to consult with a lawyer about potential discrimination issues before they lead to claims or lawsuits. If you face discrimination issues as an employer, Stephen Hans & Associates offers effective legal representation to help you resolve your issues. Our firm has successfully defended employers for more than 20 years.