EEOC Fines Company for not Accommodating Religious Belief

Mims Distributing Company, Inc. has been ordered to pay $50,000 in order to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Christopher Alston, a practicing Rastafarian, applied for a job as a delivery driver with Mims. Alston was told that he could have the job if he cut his hair. Alston informed Mims that as a Rastafarian he could not cut his hair. Ultimately Alston did not get the job and the EEOC alleges it was because he would not agree to their request.

Disregarding a person’s deeply held religious belief is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs as long as it would not pose an undue hardship to the company. The EEOC attempted to reach settlement through its conciliation process first, but when that failed they filed suit.

Mims has agreed to a two-year consent decree in order to resolve the issue. The consent decree requires Mims to create an official religious accommodation policy, to conduct annual training programs on the requirements of Title VII and its ban against religious discrimination, as well as post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy in its facility.

What is a Rastafarian?

Rastafarianism began in 1930s Jamaica. Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican who led a “Back to Africa” movement, predicted there would be a black messiah in Africa. When Ras Tafari, a prince, became Emperor of Ethiopia in 1930 (as Emperor he was called Halie Selassie) the people believed he was the black messiah Marcus Garvey prophesied about. Rastafarians believe that they are one of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel and that God took human form first as Christ the messiah then as Ras Tafari, the black messiah.

Where Do Dreadlocks Come into Play?

People who follow the Rastafarian religion wear dreadlocks because it is a part of the Nazarite Vow. They believe a man’s strength comes from the length of his hair. There is Biblical justification for the style (Leviticus 21:5 “They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard nor make any cuttings in their flesh”) and it is the way some ancient African priests and Israelites wore their hair.

What is a Consent Decree?

A consent decree is defined as ‘an agreement or settlement to resolve a dispute between two parties without admission of guilt.’

What is Undue Hardship?

An undue hardship is an action that places significant difficulty or expense on the employer.

Reasonable Accommodation

Reasonable accommodation as defined by the U.S. Department of Justice is “any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.”


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