Denise Lavoie, AP, Dec. 2, 2008
A Rastafarian man who refused to shave off his beard or cut his hair to comply with a Jiffy Lube employee grooming policy can take his religious discrimination case to trial, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled Tuesday.
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed a decision by a Superior Court judge who had dismissed Bobby T. Brown’s lawsuit against a Jiffy Lube franchisee before a trial.
Brown worked as a technician at a Hadley Jiffy Lube business owned by F.L. Roberts & Co. Inc.
In 2002, after a new grooming policy was put in place requiring employees who worked with customers to be clean-shaven, Brown told management that his religion does not permit him to shave or cut his hair. Managers then said Brown could work only in lower bays where he did not have contact with customers.
Brown filed a discrimination lawsuit in state court in 2006. A Superior Court judge agreed with the company that it had the right to control its public image and found that it would be an undue hardship on the company to grant Brown an exemption from the grooming policy.
But the Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, saying the company had not proven that no other accommodation was possible for Brown without imposing an undue hardship on the company.
The Rastafarian faith urges followers to let their hair grow unbridled. Many grow their hair into long, matted strands called dreadlocks to express a oneness with nature.