Wednesday, May 2, 2012

$27,000 buys a lot of chalupas: Taco Bell settles religious discrimination lawsuit with EEOC

Last year, I discussed lawsuit filed by the EEOC agains a North Carolina Taco Bell franchise, claiming that it had failed to accommodate an employee's religion by requiring him to cut his hair.

Last week, the EEOC announced that it had settled the charge on behalf of the employee:

According to the lawsuit, Christopher Abbey is a practicing Nazirite who, in accordance with his religious beliefs, has not cut his hair since he was 15 years old.... When Abbey explained that he could not cut his hair because of his religion, the company told Abbey that unless he cut his hair, he could no longer continue to work at its Taco Bell restaurant....
In addition to monetary damages ($27,000), the two-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Family Foods, Inc. to adopt a formal religious accommodation policy and conduct annual training on Title VII and its prohibition against religious discrimination and retaliation in the workplace....

Does your workplace have a religious accommodation policy? Do your managers and supervisors know how to accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs (as long as it does not impose an undue hardship)? Do your managers and supervisors even understand that they have a legal obligation to accommodation employees' religious beliefs?

If you answer "no" to any of these questions, you should consider this case a reminder of your religious accommodation obligations under Title VII (and similar state laws). Implement a religious accommodation policy. Train your managers and supervisors on what that policy means and how they need to implement it. The EEOC is watching. Taking these two simple steps will help keep you off the agency's bothersome radar.