Written by Don Byrd

The EEOC announced a $30,000 settlement in a workplace discrimination suit brought on behalf of a Rastafarian man in Florida. HospitalityStaff, a staffing company, required Courtnay B. Joseph to cut his dreadlocks to meet their grooming standards, refusing a religious accommodation.

Citing Joseph’s beliefs as a Rastafarian that dreadlocks are a required element of faith, the EEOC filed suit claiming the company violated his religious freedom rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC press release issued last week describes some of the terms of the settlement:

Under the decree, which was agreed to soon after EEOC filed its lawsuit, HospitalityStaff agreed to pay Joseph $30,000 in damages. The company will also amend its employee handbook and policy manual to include a clear policy providing for reasonable accommodations covering both disability and religious-based requests. Further, HospitalityStaff agreed to provide training to its managers and human resources personnel, and to voluntarily provide information to EEOC concerning its handling of religious discrimination complaints for three years.

Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, added, “The Supreme Court’s opinion in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch reminds us that we must be vigilant in protecting sincere religious expression in the workplace. This is particularly important where the Commission has recognized ‘the increasing complexity of employment relationships and structures, including temporary workers, staffing agencies, and independent contractor relationships’ in an ever more on-demand economy.”

Despite continued enforcement and clear guidance from the EEOC, some employers continue to put workers in the difficult position of having to choose between their faith and their livelihood. The law warns clearly against such behavior.

The most recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling about religious discrimination in the workplace, EEOC v. Abercrombie, was decided in 2015. For more on this important topic, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s resource page on the Abercrombie case.