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WASHINGTON (RNS) Shipping giant UPS will pay $46,000 in damages to a Rastafarian employee who was fired after he refused to cut his hair or trim his beard, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Wednesday (Feb. 17).
According to the EEOC, the Harrisburg, Pa., branch of UPS Freight fired a driver, Nieland Bynoe, during orientation after Bynoe declined to shave his beard and cut his hair to comply with the company’s grooming policy.
Rastafarians, who are popularly often associated with reggae music and ritual marijuana smoking, are prohibited to cut their hair or trim their beards as an article of faith.
After explaining his beliefs to a human resources manager, Bynoe was fired — a violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which requires employers to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees and applicants unless doing so would impose an undue hardship, the EEOC said.
“Our freedom to practice our religious beliefs is a fundamental right in this country,” said Debra Lawrence, acting regional attorney of the EEOC’s Philadelphia office. “Title VII’s obligation for employers to provide a reasonable accommodation … brings that bedrock value of religious freedom into the workplace.”
The EEOC agreement also prohibits UPS Freight from unlawful religious discrimination in the future; mandates anti-discrimination training and requires UPS to post a notice about the settlement with employees.
In 2006, the EEOC sued UPS for refusing to hire a Rastafarian as an assistant driver in Newark, N.J.
By Kimberlee Hauss
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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