A very Publix religious discrimination suit
LAKELAND, KY – The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) has filed a case in federal court against Publix, a popular southern grocer. The suit alleges that the prominent grocery chain discriminated against its employees on the basis of their religion.

According to the suit filed by the EEOC this past Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Nashville, Tenn., Publix discriminated against an employee’s religious practice by refusing to hire him unless he cut his dreads.
The EEOC alleges that back in January Publix managers recruited 28-year old Guy Usher to work at one of their Nashville locations. The job came with one condition, Usher would have to cut his dreads. Usher is a practicing Rastafarian, which is a faith based out of Jamaica which requires its practitioners to maintain their hair in dreadlocks. “Rastas,” as they are known colloquially, have a number of requirements for those who practice, for example Rasta’s are prohibited from eating pork and consuming alcoholic beverages. Usher asked his managers if he could conceal his dreads under a hat, but his managers stood fast to the employee handbook which prohibited male employees from wearing their hair longer than the collar of their shirt.

Usher originally declined the job. However, he later called Publix and accepted a position as a part-time clerk. Before he accepted the job, he referenced multiple religious and equal employment opportunity laws and again asked if Publix would require him to cut his hair. The manger denied his religious accommodation by telling him in order to take the position, he would be required to cut his hair. Despite this requirement, Usher showed up to the first day of work wearing his dreadlocks. When his managers realized he did not cut his dreads, he was forced to quit before finishing his first shift.

The EEOC has now filed a lawsuit in federal court against Publix alleging the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee on the basis of their religion. Under Title VII, an employer is required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious belief so long as that belief doesn’t cause the employer undue hardship. Here, allowing Usher to cover his hair with a hat would have been a reasonable accommodation. It is difficult to see how allowing an employee to wear a hat to cover his hair, especially in a job where he would be selling fresh produce directly to customers, would have caused Publix any undue hardship. However, Publix manager’s reluctance to accommodate Usher may constitute unlawful employment discrimination and retaliation.

The New York City sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC, have years of experience litigating claims of religious discrimination. If you feel like you have been discriminated against on behalf of your religion, please give us a call at (800) 807-2209 to discuss your possible employment litigation claim.Up Their Negotiations – Results Matter!