Did a dreadlocked applicant put the employer on notice of a need for religious accommodation when he said the hairstyle was part of his “belief”?

He did not, according to a federal appeals court in Illinois.

Cut ’em or else
The man, a Rastafarian, applied for a job with a security company, and the hiring manager told him company policy barred dreadlocks. He’d have to cut them to get the job.

“It’s against my belief,” the applicant replied, and left the room.

When the rejected applicant filed a religious discrimination lawsuit, the manager testified that he had no idea at the time what Rastafarians were, or that dreadlocks were part of their belief set.

The court ruled for the company, saying you can’t be expected to accommodate somebody’s religious beliefs if you don’t know what they are. “Employers are not charged with detailed knowledge of the beliefs and observances associated with particular sects,” the court said.

Best practice: Train supervisors to come to HR if employees say they want to do something – or not do something – because of their “beliefs”.

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