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
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."