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Judicial Watch • Co. Pays Rastafari Cook $30k to Settle Govt.’s Dreadlock Discrimination Suit

Co. Pays Rastafari Cook $30k to Settle Govt.’s Dreadlock Discrimination Suit

Co. Pays Rastafari Cook $30k to Settle Govt.’s Dreadlock Discrimination Suit

JUNE 23, 2017

A private business is paying tens of thousands of dollars to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the Obama administration on behalf of a male cook with long, matted and knotted hair required to practice an “Afrocentric” religion in which followers also smoke marijuana (“the spiritual use of cannabis”). Judicial Watch wrote about the outrageous taxpayer-funded lawsuit last summer, filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws. Under Obama the EEOC spiraled out of control to push through the administration’s leftist agenda in the public and private workplace, filing record numbers of discrimination lawsuits in federal courts nationwide.

In this case the administration accused a Florida company of religious discrimination for ordering a prep cook to cut his dreadlocks because it didn’t comply with the company’s appearance standards. The Orlando company, Hospitality Staff, provides workers for central Florida’s huge hospitality industry and the cook (Courtney Joseph) worked at one of Walt Disney’s resorts. Disney complained about the employee’s hair and Hospitality Staff management told Joseph to cut it if he wanted to return to work. The cook explained that he couldn’t because he was a practicing Rastafarian and his dreadlocks were part of his religious beliefs and the company terminated him.

Hospitality Staff violated federal law by firing Joseph over his Rastafarian religious practices, the EEOC charged in a lawsuit filed last summer. “Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits religious discrimination and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs so long as this does not pose an undue hardship to the business,” according to an agency announcement. The EEOC asked a federal court to grant a permanent injunction enjoining Hospitality Staff from further engaging in any employment practice that discriminates against workers because of their religious beliefs and requiring the company to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of employees in the future. The suit also asked the court to order Hospitality Staff to reinstate Joseph, grant back pay, provide compensatory and punitive damages and award any other relief the court deems necessary and proper.

This month, the EEOC announced that Hospitality Staff settled the case by paying the Rastafari cook $30,000 for violating his religious rights and implementing a company-wide accommodation policy. Under the decree the company’s employee handbook and policy manual will be amended to include a clear policy for religious-based requests. Training for managers and human resources personnel will also be conducted under the terms of the settlement and the firm will provide information to the EEOC involving its handling of religious discrimination complaints for three years. “Rastafarians wear dreadlocks as part of their sincerely held religious belief, and making an employment decision because of such a religious practice violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the EEOC writes in its announcement.

There is no formal, organized leadership in Rastafarianism which makes it difficult to accept as an official religion protected by federal law. It was born in the slums of Jamaica and followers must have dreadlocks, long clumps of ungroomed hair symbolizing the mane of the Lion of Judah. Rastafarians believe Haile Selassie, the former emperor of Ethiopia, is God and that he’ll help blacks living in exile as a result of the slave trade return to Africa. Jamaican reggae singer Bob Marley, who died in Miami in 1981, was among the best known Rastafarians and more recently a famous rapper known as Snoop Dogg became Rastafari and changed his name to Snoop Lion, according to a mainstream news report. “A key belief for Rastas is the notion of death to all white and black oppressors,” the story says, adding that “the most common outward expressions of Rastafari are Rastas’ dreadlocks, penchant for smoking marijuana and vegetarian diets.”

Before asserting that a dreadlock ban constitutes religious discrimination in the workplace, the Obama administration claimed it was racially discriminatory in a separate federal lawsuit. That case involved a black woman ordered by an Alabama insurance claims processing company to cut her dreadlocks because it violated its grooming policy. The EEOC sued the company, Catastrophe Management Solutions, for racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Obama administration said the lawsuit wasn’t meant to attack policies requiring employees to maintain hair in a professional, neat or conservative manner but rather focus “on the racial bias that may occur when specific hair constructs and styles are singled out for different treatment because they do not conform to normative standers for other races.” The EEOC’s district director pointed out that “generally, there are racial distinctions in the natural texture of black and non-black hair. The EEOC will not tolerate employment discrimination against African-American employees because they choose to wear and display the natural texture of their hair, manage and style their hair in a manner amenable to it, or manage and style their hair in a manner differently from non-blacks.” A federal judge in Alabama ruled against the government’s outlandish assertions, the Obama administration appealed and a federal appellate court upheld the Alabama judge’s decision, rejecting the woman’s right to keep the dreadlocks.


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