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.”

Delaware Protects Pregnant and Transgender Workers

The Delaware Department of Labor revised the Delaware Labor Law Poster required for all employers to reflect the inclusions of pregnant and transgender employees as workers who are protected from employment discrimination.

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What Changed on the Delaware Labor Law Poster?

The revised posting includes Gender Identity as a class protected from discrimination in hiring and employment, and it adds a section informing employers that pregnant workers must receive reasonable accommodation in the workplace.

Delaware Gender Identity

Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed into law the Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act (SB 97) in 2013. The Act added gender identity to Delaware’s existing law (Title 19) prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and in housing. The original legislation in 1999 had been rewritten without gender identity included. Employers may not treat transgender workers any differently than other workers in hiring, firing, promotion, or pay.

According to the Delaware statute, Gender identity means “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth.”

Employers may still require all workers “…to adhere to reasonable workplace appearance, grooming and dress standards not precluded by other provisions of state or federal law, except that an employer shall allow an employee to appear, groom and dress consistent with the employee’s gender identity.” [§ 711 (m)]

Delaware Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnant workers or those who have given birth or suffer from pregnancy-related medical conditions are protected from workplace discrimination under the Delaware Discrimination in Employment Act (DDEA). The Act covers employers with 4 or more employees, including state and local governments. Women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.

If a pregnant worker is unable to perform her typical job duties because of pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical condition, then the employer must provide reasonable accommodation [see § 710 (17)], such as light-duty assignments, or allow the worker to take disability leave or time off without pay.

After giving birth, the worker must be allowed to return to her former job with no adverse effects to pay or promotion.

In addition to displaying the Delaware Labor Law Poster, Delaware employers must notify [§ 716 (b)(1)]:

  • New employees in writing about Delaware’s pregnant worker protections.
  • All other employees verbally or in writing by January 7, 2015.
  • Pregnant workers verbally or in writing within 10 days after they alert the employer about pregnancy.

Delaware Labor Law Poster

The Delaware Labor Law Poster is available as part of the Delaware Poster Compliance Package from GovDocs. Order now and save 20% with coupon code BLOG20.

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