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Man fired for refusing to cut hair files discrimination lawsuit

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit last week against Taco Bell on behalf of a man who was fired from the fast food chain when he refused to cut his hair.

The man refused to cut his hair for religious reasons and the EEOC claims that his employer did not provide him reasonable accommodations for his religious beliefs. The man is a Nazirite, which is a religion that includes a vow of abstinence and a practice of not cutting one's hair as a show of devotion to God.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that employers cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. Employers are also required to reasonable accommodate their employees sincerely-held religious beliefs, unless those accommodations lead to considerable hardship for the company.

The man was employed at the taco chain for six years. He was eventually told that he had to cut his hair because he was violating the employer's policies regarding hygiene and grooming. The man did not cut his hair and he was fired. The EEOC says that this is a case of wrongful termination.

It will be interesting to see what happens. According to The Blog of LegalTimes, Nazirites also frequently do not brush or comb their hair. The exact facts of this case are not known, but it is possible that the man's hair was impossible to accommodate while still following health regulations. The EEOC is seeking compensatory damages, back pay, punitive damages and reinstatement for the man.

Source: The BLT, "A Hairy EEOC Fight for Taco Bell," Jenna Greene, 28 July 2011