FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (The Blaze/AP) -- The federal government is jumping into yet another religious freedom case. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing a North Carolina Taco Bell franchisee, claiming the company fired an employee whose religious beliefs prohibit him from cutting his hair.
In the lawsuit filed Thursday, the EEOC claims Family Foods Inc. illegally fired Christopher Abbey from a Fayetteville Taco Bell in April 2010. The complaint says Abbey was told to cut his hair or lose his job. Abbey belongs to an obscure religious group called the Nazirites (NAZZ'-uh-rites), whose members cite Old Testament passages as forbidding haircuts. FayObserver.com has more:
Abbey, now 27, has been a practicing Nazirite since he was 15 and has not cut his hair since then, the lawsuit says. He had worked for Family Foods [owner of Fayetteville's Taco Bell franchise] for more than six years before he was fired ...for failure to follow the company's grooming policy, the suit says.
The EEOC says firing Abbey over his religious beliefs is against the law. The agency wants policy changes at Family Foods along with back pay and damages for Abbey. The lawsuit asks for a trial jury and seeks to force Family Foods to stop discriminating against employees based on religion.
Aside from back pay, damages sought would include job search costs, fees incurred after Abbey was fired and compensation for humiliation, inconvenience and other similar losses resulting from the firing. The EEOC's argument alleges a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which centers upon failing to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs. The LegalTimes writes:
The law requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations to sincerely held religious beliefs of employees as long as doing so poses no undue hardship.
Back in June, The Blaze reported on two Muslim women who are suing the clothing company Abercrombie and Fitch over their religious choice to wear hijabs. One of the women claims she was fired for wearing the Islamic headscarf, while the other claims a local store refused to hire her because of it.
No one answered Family Food's office phone Thursday afternoon. The company has 60 days to file a response to the lawsuit.