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Long hair nets settlement in Taco Bell religious bias case

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

A Taco Bell franchisee in Fayetteville has agreed to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC. The commission sued last year on behalf of Christopher Abbey, who had worked at the restaurant for six years before the length of his hair became an issue.

Abbey subscribes to the Nazarite faith, which upholds Old Testament teachings that long hair shows one’s devotion to God. Abbey, 27, has been a Nazarite since age 15 and has not cut his hair since then.

Although he had always worn a hairnet at work, Taco Bell managers fired him for violating the company’s grooming policy.

After he was fired, Abbey went to the EEOC, alleging that Taco Bell failed to accommodate his religious beliefs. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act requires employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs unless doing so would constitute an undue burden for the employer.

Rather than facing a trial, the franchisee agreed to a two-year consent decree requiring it to pay Abbey $27,000 and train its supervisors about religious accommodations.

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