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Company, man with dreadlocks settle after jury deadlocks

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Lawrence Transportation was all set to hire Christopher Woodson on one condition: That he cut off his dreadlocks. But that would have violated Woodson’s Rastafarian religious beliefs, so he refused.

When the trucking company, based in Virginia but with facilities in Greens­­boro, declined to hire Wood­­son, he filed an EEOC complaint, alleging failure to accommodate his religious needs by allowing him to wear his hair in dreadlocks on the job.

The EEOC tried to mediate between Woodson and Lawrence Trans­por­ta­tion, but gave up after the company wouldn’t budge.

In June 2011, the commission sued on Woodson’s be­half. A federal jury failed to reach a verdict, and the case was about to be retried.

By then, Lawrence Transportation had had enough and offered to settle with Woodson. In addition to an undisclosed payment to Woodson, the company agreed to implement and enforce policies banning religious discrimination and provide anti-­discrimination training to all employees.

Advice: Pick your battles wisely. No word on how much it cost Lawrence Transportation to prepare for and mount a lawsuit defense, or how much it paid to eventually settle this case. However, it’s probably safe to say the company would have rather spent its money on something more important than a court fight over a job applicant’s hairstyle.

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