Religious Discrimination Claim Succeeds for Failure to Accommodate Facial Hair

Title VII prohibits employers from discrimination based on religion, among other things.  The anti-religious-discrimination requirements actually require employers to go a step further.  Not only must employers refrain from acting (i.e., from discriminating), but they must also take action in the form of providing an accommodation for sincerely held religious beliefs of an employee.  Of course, there are limits on how far an employer must go to make such accommodations. And, like all of Title VII, the law applies not only to employees but to applicants, as well.  religion rastafarian_lion

United Parcel Service (UPS), learned this lesson in a very undesirable way.  Last week, a federal jury in New Jersey found against UPS and ordered it to pay $10,000 in damages in a religious-accommodation claim brought by the EEOC.  The EEOC asserted, and the jury so found, that the plaintiff was wrongfully denied a job based on his religious beliefs.  The plaintiff, Ronnis Mason, a Rastafarian, applied for a job in 2004 as a driver’s assistant but was denied the job because of his beard. 

The company had a policy that prevented employees with beards from delivering packages to customers.  He was, instead, offered a job as a package handler.  In this position, Mason would have worked in a warehouse for a lower salary.  Mason never completed the application process.

This is the second successful case of religious discrimination brought by the EEOC on behalf of a Rastafarian in recent memory.  We posted last year about a quickly-settled claim involving four security guards at NYC’s Grand Central Station were disciplined when their “sloppy-looking” dreadlocks did not fit under the uniform-standard caps.

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3 responses to “Religious Discrimination Claim Succeeds for Failure to Accommodate Facial Hair”

  1. Charles Edward English says:

    Thanks…Molly for your post and the success on Religious Discrimination. As you might not know…I’m the Pro Se Ligitigant in the Religious Discrimination claim, English vs. Manpower et al. in Western District Court, Judge Prado Presiding…I too prevailed during the same time a high profile case of Sheila Bellis and Multi-Millionaire Blackthorn case was in deliberation, what a media event and witness of my Pre-Conference Case…bravo, 5th Circuit Court Judge Prado…Bravo! Your words were profound and will be heard forever, and forever!

  2. Charles Edward English says:

    Thanks…Molly for your post and the success on Religious Discrimination. As you might not know…I’m the Pro Se Ligitigant in the Religious Discrimination claim, English vs. Manpower et al. in Western District Court, Judge Prado Presiding…I too prevailed during the same time a high profile case of Sheila Bellis and Multi-Millionaire Blackthorn case was in deliberation, what a media event and witness of my Pre-Conference Case…bravo, 5th Circuit Court Judge Prado…Bravo! Your words were profound and will be heard forever, and forever!

  3. Jerry Ostrander says:

    I have a beard for medical reasons. I am a melanoma skin cancer survivor, and have letters from a melanoma skin cancer scientist and a dermatologist citing published medical evidence that wearing a beard would be a health benefit due to my past medical history of melanoma a possible prevention recurrance in the future. Does this mean U.P.S. would / could discriminate against me because of facial hair if I were to apply for a job? Do they make medical exceptions in their grooming / appearance policy allowing facial hair?

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