Craig Berg joined Apol’s Harley-Davidson of Alexandria as a salesman in May 2006. During his tenure of less than a year, Berg received at least 10 warnings from supervisor Thomas Brenden about his appearance.
Brenden objected to Berg’s facial hair, which he shaved every few days. “If you want to grow a beard, grow a beard,” Brenden told him. “If you don’t want to grow a beard, then shave.”
Berg was apparently as unreliable with his iron as he was with his razor, frequently appearing in rumpled clothes. He was also no slave to the clock, often showing up late.
One day in April 2007, Brenden told a disheveled Berg to please consider a good shave. Berg explained that his razor was extremely dull, despite its infrequent use.
The next day, a Friday, Berg showed up half an hour late, looking “homeless” and smelling of alcohol. Brenden ordered Berg to go home and “get shaved, get showered, get cleaned up and come back to work looking like a professional. And … if you can’t do that, don’t come back today.”
Berg went home—he said he shaved as instructed—but did not return to work. He later explained that he “would have been crabby” had he returned that day.
When Berg returned to work the following Monday, his face was smooth as a baby’s bottom, but Brenden terminated him anyway.
Berg applied for unemployment benefits and was turned down three times. Showing greater tenacity in the legal system than he ever had in his personal grooming, Berg appealed all the way to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, arguing that he was not the only employee at the dealership who had facial hair.
The judge denied his appeal, noting, “Although there were other employees at Apol’s who had facial hair, the issue was unkempt facial hair.”
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