EEOC Sues Staffing Company for Religious Discrimination Against Rastifarian Employee

The requirement of reasonable accommodation of religious beliefs trumps rigid adherence to an employer’s appearance standards.

That’s the gist of the argument that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is asserting in a religious discrimination lawsuit filed against an Orlando, Florida staffing company.

According to EEOC’s suit, Ramnarain II, LLC, which does business as HospitalityStaff, denied a religious accommodation to Courtney Joseph, a prep cook assigned by HospitalityStaff to work at the Walt Disney World resort hotel, Shades of Green, from late 2011 through February 2013, when he was fired.

Joseph practices Rastafarianism, and wears his hair in dreadlocks in observance of his religious beliefs. Joseph worked at the jobsite with his dreadlocks tucked under his hat for over a year without question or incident.

Following a Feb. 5, 2013, inspection of the kitchen area by a Disney staff member for compliance with the Disney appearance standards, HospitalityStaff management told Joseph he had to cut his hair if he wanted to return to work, despite his explanation that he could not do so because he was a practicing Rastafarian and that he grew his hair into dreadlocks as part of his religious beliefs.

Because Joseph did not cut his hair, he was prohibited from returning to work at Shades of Green. HospitalityStaff made no effort to accommodate Joseph’s religious beliefs, and he was terminated.

“The law seeks to strike a balance between reasonably accommodating religious beliefs and respecting legitimate business concerns,” said Robert E. Weisberg, EEOC’s regional attorney for Miami. “A staffing company cannot avoid its legal obligation to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs based on a client’s appearance policy.”

Here’s EEOC’s announcement of the lawsuit.

 

 

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