Last month, a North Carolina beer distributor agreed to a $50,000 settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), after being accused of discriminating against a Rastafarian man when it refused to hire him unless he cut his hair.
The man, Christopher Alston, interviewed for the delivery driver position with Mims Distributing Co. back in May. Alston, who hadn’t cut his hair since 2009, explained that he couldn’t cut his hair for religious reasons – but Mims made clear he wouldn’t get the job otherwise.
The EEOC filed suit this past September. Mims denied it had discriminated against Alston but ultimately opted to pay $50,000, change its company policy, and subject itself to an EEOC investigation to avoid further litigation.
Employers should be wary of the EEOC’s increased scrutiny of religious accommodations in the workplace. Just last week, the EEOC filed another religious bias suit against a North Carolina-based catering and event planning company for unlawfully firing a different Rastafarian delivery driver for insisting on covering his head to prevent his spiritual energy from escaping.