Taco Bell Sued over Firing Employee for Refusal to Cut Hair

July 28, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A Taco Bell owner is being sued for firing an employee who refused to cut his hair.

Family Foods, Inc., a North Carolina corporation that operates a chain of Taco Bell restaurants in eastern North Carolina, violated federal law by failing to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and by firing him because of his religion, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit.  

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Christopher Abbey is a practicing Nazirite who, in accordance with his religious beliefs, has not cut his hair since he was 15 years old. Abbey had worked at a Taco Bell restaurant owned by Family Foods in Fayetteville, N.C., since 2004.   

Sometime in April 2010, Family Foods informed Abbey, who was 25 at the time, that he had to cut his hair in order to comply with its grooming policy. When Abbey explained that he could not cut his hair because of his religion, the company told Abbey that unless he cut his hair, he could no longer continue to work at the restaurant.  

“Many decision makers seem to forget that they must work with an employee to agree upon a reasonable accommodation that will suit everyone’s needs and rights,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office, which includes the EEOC’s Raleigh Area Office, in a news release.