Thursday, August 4, 2011
EEOC Sues Taco Bell Owner for Religious Discrimination
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit alleging that a company that operates a chain of Taco Bell restaurants in North Carolina violated federal law by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and by firing him because of his religion. EEOC v. Family Foods, Inc. d/b/a Taco Bell, Civil Action No. 5:11-cv-00394 (E.D.N.C. July 28, 2011). According to the EEOC, Christopher Abbey, the former employee, is a practicing Nazirite who, in accordance with his religious beliefs, cannot cut his hair. Abbey worked at the Taco Bell restaurant since 2004, and in April 2010 the employer told him he had to cut his hair in order to comply with its grooming policy. When he explained that he could not cut his hair because of his religion, the company told him that he could no longer continue to work at the restaurant.
In its suit, the EEOC argues that the company’s alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so poses no undue hardship. The EEOC seeks back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Abbey, as well as injunctive relief.