Beer Distributor Unlawfully Refused to Hire Rastafarian Because He Refused to Cut His Hair, Federal Agency Charged
RALEIGH, N.C. – Mims Distributing Company, Inc. will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. Mims operates a beer distribution business in Raleigh.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Christopher Alston is a practicing Rastafarian. As a Rastafarian, he cannot cut his hair and, in accordance with these religious beliefs, has not cut his hair since at least 2009. Alston applied for a job as a delivery driver with Mims in May 2014. At that time, the company informed Alston that he would have to cut his hair if he wanted the position. Alston told Mims he could not cut his hair because of his religious beliefs. The company ultimately refused to hire Alston because he would not comply, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs as long as doing so would not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit on Sept. 25, 2014 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Mims Distributing Company, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:14-CV-00538) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Mims to adopt a formal religious accommodation policy and to conduct an annual training program on the requirements of Title VII and its prohibition against religious discrimination. Mims will also post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy at its Raleigh facility.
“Employers are required by federal law to make exceptions to their dress and grooming policies in order to accommodate a job applicant’s sincerely held religious beliefs – unless doing so would pose an undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s continued commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.