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EEOC Sues North Carolina Taco Bell Franchise for Terminating Employee Who Refused to Cut Hair

    Client Alerts
  • August 19, 2011

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it had filed suit against a Fayetteville Taco Bell franchisee, alleging religious discrimination under Title VII. The case involves a male employee who was terminated for violating the employer's grooming standards after he refused to cut his long hair.

According to the suit, the former employee is a practicing Nazarite, who in accordance with his religious beliefs, has not cut his hair in ten years. The lawsuit alleges that the employer violated Title VII, because making an exception to the grooming standards in this case did not pose an undue hardship to the business. Under Title VII's religious discrimination proscriptions, employers are generally required to provide reasonable accommodation for employees' religious beliefs and practices, although the accommodation obligations are not as arduous as those required under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Employers faced with religious accommodation requests should not dismiss them based on company policy without conducting an analysis of the impact of the request on the business' operations. By far, the most commonly requested religious accommodation involves time off from work for religious observance. However, even while at work, employees have some rights to follow their beliefs and practices absent a significant hardship to the company.