UPS Sued For
Discrimination Against Rastafarian
EEOC Charges United Parcel Service with Religious Bias due to 'No Beard'
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Michael Ranis
March 29, 2006 Trial Attorney
TTY: (212) 336-3622
NEWARK, N.J. - Global shipping giant United Parcel
Service (UPS) committed religious discrimination at its Secaucus, N.J.,
facilities, by refusing to hire a Rastafarian as a driver helper because of
his beard, which he wore for religious purposes, the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges in a lawsuit.
EEOC says that UPS required Ronnis Mason to shave his
beard if he were to be hired for that position helping with customer
deliveries and requiring customer contact. Mason wears his beard as part of
his observance of Rastafarianism, a Jamaican-born religion with around one
million adherents in the world. Mason explained to UPS that he could not
shave his beard, and UPS told him that he could then only apply for an
"inside," lower paying position that would not have contact with
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires
employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' and applicants'
sincerely held religious beliefs as long as this does not pose an undue
hardship. The EEOC alleges that by refusing to accommodate Mason's religion
and by not permitting him to work as a driver helper, UPS interfered with
Mason's employment opportunities and ability to make a better living in the
higher-paid position he sought. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District
Court for the District of New Jersey in Newark after first attempting to
reach a voluntary settlement.
"Employers are not permitted to deny an
individual equal opportunities because of that person's religion, and the
EEOC will seek full relief against employers who discriminate," said
Elizabeth Grossman, the EEOC's New York District regional attorney.
Spencer H. Lewis, Jr, director for the EEOC's New York
District Office, added, "Employees are entitled to an accommodation of
their sincerely held religious beliefs and practices they should not be
hidden from the public in the back room or paid inferior wages simply
because they are practicing their religion."
According to its web site, Atlanta-based UPS had $42.6
billion in revenues in 2005 and has 407,200 employees worldwide (348,400 in
the United States).
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation's
laws prohibiting discrimination in employment based on race, color, sex
(including sexual harassment and pregnancy), religion, national origin, age,
disability, and retaliation. Further information about the Commission is
available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.