“…(plaintiff) applied for a job with a Bojangles’ restaurant in Charlotte and was interviewed for a food prep position…the manager informed Charles that he might need to cut his beard, to which Charles responded that he could not cut his beard for religious reasons, informing her that he was a Muslim. Charles was hired and worked at the restaurant on May 18 without incident…Charles reminded the manager that he could not cut his beard because of his religion, and requested an accommodation of wearing a beard net, similar to a hair net, which the restaurant manager refused. The restaurant manager told Charles to leave the restaurant, and to not return to work until he shaved off his beard. Charles refused to shave his beard and was consequently fired…”
Bo-Cherry, Inc., a North Carolina corporation that operates several Bojangles’ restaurants in the Charlotte metro area, violated federal law when it failed to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and then fired him because of his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Devin Charles has been a practicing Muslim for the past 14 years. As a male Muslim member of his sect of the Sunni branch of the Islamic faith, Charles is required to grow and maintain a beard and is not allowed to trim or cut his beard unless it exceeds the length of his fist when holding his beard in his closed hand under his chin, commonly referred to as “fist length.” In accordance with his sincerely held religious beliefs, Charles has not trimmed or cut his beard unless it exceeded a fist length
The manager instructed Charles that her supervisor, the district manager, had come to the restaurant, seen Charles’ beard and instructed her to tell Charles that he needed to shave off his beard to continue working for Bojangles’.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Charlotte Division (EEOC v. Bo-Cherry, Inc. d/b/a Bojangles, Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-00210) only after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay. The complaint also seeks injunctive relief.
“Under federal law, employers have an obligation to attempt a fair balance between an employee’s right to practice his or her religion and the operation of their business,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “This case demonstrates the EEOC’s commitment to fighting religious discrimination in the workplace.”