Legal News Line Jul. 14, 2016, 8:19pm

ORLANDO, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Ramnarain II LLC, an Orlando staffing company serving Central Florida's hospitality industry, over allegations of firing an employee over his Rastafarian religious practices.

EEOC charges that the defendants denied Courtney Joseph religious accommodation for his Rastafarian beliefs. Joseph, a prep cook at a hotel the defendants staffed called Shades of Green, wears his hear in dreadlocks in observance with his religious beliefs; he worked with that hair for more than a year without incident. In 2013, following an inspection, the defendants allegedly told him to cut his hair, and when he refused on religious grounds, they fired him.

"The law seeks to strike a balance between reasonably accommodating religious beliefs and respecting legitimate business concerns," Robert E. Weisberg, EEOC's regional attorney for Miami, said. "A staffing company cannot avoid its legal obligation to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs based on a client's appearance policy."

EEOC seeks a reinstatement for Joseph, back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages.

"Employers, including staffing companies, are required under federal law to reasonably accommodate an employee's sincerely held religious practices, when the accommodation would not burden the employer's business operation,” District Director Michael Farrell said. “EEOC will continue to act when employers fail to meet that obligation."

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