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Taco Bell Has Hairy Lawsuit

Taco Bell Has Hairy Lawsuit

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today sued Family Foods, Inc., a North Carolina corporation that operates Taco Bell restaurants in the eastern part of the state.

The reason for the lawsuit?  Former employee Christopher Abbey worked at Taco Bell but was warned that his hair, which he had not cut for many years, was in violation of the company's grooming policy.

Mr. Abbey, who was 25 at the time, had not cut his hair since he was 15 due to the fact he was a practicing Nazirite.  Abbey was not able to cut his hair without violating his long held religious practices.  Unfortunately Taco Bell told him that if he didn't cut his hair, he would lose his job.

Cut Hair Or Lose Job

He didn't cut his hair and he was terminated from the restaurant chain in 2010.  Which resulted in the EEOC lawsuit for failing to accommodate Abbey's religious beliefs  in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The law requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so poses no undue hardship.

EEOC Complaint

According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina by EEOC regional attorney Lynette Barnes and trial lawyer Katherine Zimmerman, “Nazirites base their religious beliefs on references in the Old Testament to individuals who took a special vow of abstinence.

In accordance with this vow, Nazirites do not cut their hair, believing that long hair is a way of showing their devotion to God.”

Nazirites are also prohibited from brushing or combing their hair because that could cause it to fall out.   So besides not cutting their hair, Nazirites are not allowed to groom their hair to some extent.

In a statement, Barnes said the case “once again demonstrates the EEOC’s commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”   The suit seeks back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Abbey, as well as injunctive relief.

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