Transport Company Fired Rastafarian Employee Because of His Religion-Required Dreadlocks and Beard, Federal Agency Charges
HARRISBURG, Pa. — UPS Freight, one of the one of the nation’s largest trucking companies, will pay $46,000 and provide equitable relief to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that UPS Ground Freight, doing business as UPS Freight, refused to accommodate the Rastafarian religious beliefs of Nieland Bynoe and instead fired him from its Harrisburg, Pa., location because of his religion. The company hired Bynoe, of Harrisburg, for a position as a driver. During new hire orientation, the human resources manager told Bynoe he would need to cut his hair and shave his beard to comply with the company’s grooming policy. Bynoe replied that his religious beliefs prohibit him from cutting his hair or shaving his beard.
The following day, Bynoe again advised the human resources manager about his religious beliefs and asked for a reasonable accommodation, but UPS Freight instead fired him, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Civil Action No. 08-cv-1806, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires employers to accommodate the sincerely held religious beliefs of applicants and employees unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. The EEOC filed its lawsuit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
In addition to the $46,000 in monetary relief to Bynoe, the two-year consent decree includes: injunctive relief prohibiting UPS Freight from engaging in unlawful religious discrimination or retaliation; anti-discrimination training; and the posting of a notice about the settlement.
“Our freedom to practice our religious beliefs is a fundamental right in this country,” said Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “Title VII’s obligation for employers to provide a reasonable accommodation, unless it imposes an undue hardship, brings that bedrock value of religious freedom into the workplace.”
Religious discrimination charge filings nationwide with the EEOC have increased substantially over the years. In Fiscal Year 2009, the EEOC received a record high level of 3,386 religious discrimination charges – nearly double the number of religious discrimination charges since FY 1992.
According to its web site, www.upsfreight.com, UPS Freight is the one of the largest less-than-truckload carriers and a leading truckload service provider in the United States.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.