Publix settles federal lawsuit over dreadlocks and religious freedom

·2 min read
Publix storefront
Publix storefront

Publix Super Markets agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a religious accommodation discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced Wednesday.

The federal agency filed suit based on a complaint from a job applicant at a store in Nashville, Tennessee, according to a news release. The applicant, a member of the Rastafarian religious sect, received a job offer, but a Publix supervisor then asked if he planned to withdraw his application after he refused to cut his hair to meet Publix’s grooming policy.

The applicant wears dreadlocks "as part of his sincerely held Rastafarian religious belief," the EEOC said in the release. He asked for a religious accommodation that would allow him to work for Publix without cutting his hair.

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Publix denied the request, and the man chose not to accept the job offer, the EEOC said.

Publix violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans religious discrimination in the workplace, the EEOC said. The agency filed suit in 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement, the release said.

Judge Eli Richardson entered a two-year consent decree that requires Publix to consider applicants’ requests for religious accommodations; “reasonably accommodate” qualified employees or applicants whose religious beliefs conflict with the company’s grooming standards; and provide training on non-discrimination and religious-accommodation policies to supervisors and human resource employees at the Nashville store.

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Publix, headquartered in Lakeland, operates nearly 1,300 stores in seven states. The company has more than 225,000 employees.

Publix did not immediately respond to a request for comment by The (Lakeland, Fla.) Ledger, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Gary White can be reached at gary.white@theledger.com. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Publix settles federal lawsuit over dreadlocks, religious freedom

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