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Press Release 09-25-2014

EEOC Sues Mims Distributing Company for Religious Discrimination

Beer Distribution Company Unlawfully Failed to Hire Rastafarian Because He Refused to Cut His Hair, Federal Agency Charges

RALEIGH, N.C. - Mims Distributing Company, Inc., a North Carolina corporation that operates a beer distribution business in Raleigh, N.C., violated federal law by failing to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and by refusing to hire him because of his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's complaint, Christopher Alston is a practicing Rastafarian. As a Rastafarian, he cannot cut his hair and, in accordance with these religious beliefs, has not cut his hair since at least 2009. Alston applied for a job as a delivery driver with Mims Distributing Company in May 2014. At that time, the company informed Alston that he would have to cut his hair if he wanted the position. Alston told Mims Distributing Company he could not cut his hair because of his religious beliefs. The company ultimately refused to hire Alston because he would not comply.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as this poses no undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (EEOC v. Mims Distributing Company, Inc., Civil Action No. 5:14-CV-00538-FL) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

"No person should be forced to choose between his religion and his job when the company can provide an accommodation without suffering an undue hardship," said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office, which includes the EEOC's Raleigh Area Office, where the charge was filed.  "This case demonstrates the EEOC's continued commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace."

This month, the EEOC issued a new "Fact Sheet on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities" which deals with these issues.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at