Human Resources News & Insights

Shave-or-else policy tested in court

A service station technician claims his former employer’s grooming policy, which prohibited facial hair, discriminated against him due to his religion.

Bobby Brown was employed by a Jiffy Lube in Massachusetts. He worked on vehicles and doubled as a salesperson, greeter and cashier.

The Jiffy Lube franchise owner brought in a consultant to determine how to improve business.

Among the recommendations was that the shop institute a grooming policy for its employees who had customer contact.

The policy stated, “customer-contact employees are expected to be clean-shaven with no facial hair … hair should be clean, combed, and neatly trimmed or arranged. Radical departures from conventional dress or personal grooming and hygiene standards are not permitted.”

Brown is a Rastafarian, a religion he had adhered to for ten years. The religion does not permit him to shave or cut his hair.

The employee told the Jiffy Lube’s manager that he wanted to maintain customer contact without having to shave or cut his hair.

The manager told him if he didn’t comply with the new grooming policy, he’d only be allowed to work in the lower bay and could not have customer contact.

Undue hardship?

In response to his lawsuit, the Jiffy Lube argued that allowing an exemption to its grooming policy would be an undue hardship because it had a right to control its public image.

In a deposition, the owner presented evidence that sales increased after the grooming policy went into effect.

However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said the evidence was insufficient to show increased profitability was caused by the policy, so Jiffy Lube did not prove it had an undue hardship.

The court remanded the case back to a lower court to determine whether assigning Brown to the lower bay where he’d have no customer contact was a reasonable accommodation.

Religious appearance requirements may include hair, yarmulkes, veils and even the mark on the forehead that denotes Ash Wednesday. What do you think about this case and the potential conflict between workplace grooming rules and religious freedom? Let us know via the Comments Box below.

Brown v. F.L. Roberts & Co., Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, No. 10155, 12/2/08. You can click here to download the court’s decision.

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  1. I agree with the court. Where the company does have some control over the appearance of their employees related to safety, cleanliness, and offensive images, there too must be tolerance for diversity in religious, cultural, or ethnic beliefs and practices as well.

  2. I was reading about the Rasta religion and no where did I read anything about shaving or haircuts forbidden it is just a part the “movement” . Oh and Rastafarins also believe in smoking marijuana as a way of cleansing their bodies. So maybe Bobby dearest should be drug tested.

    Does everything have to be challenged in court these days like a Boston Legal episode?

  3. In a day and age where full body tattoos are prevalent, nose rings, tongue piercings, multiple lip and brow piercings are common and you can encounter people with bright blue, purple or red hair (just to name a few examples), having a beard and long hair seems tame and irrelevant to me. Who cares? It’s all about courtesy, professionalism, knowing your business and taking care of the customer to their satisfaction. If there is a safety hazard involved, that’s another issue, but these days people come in a a variety of forms. It’s the behavior that matters the most and appearance shouldn’t be an issue unless, for example, they’re vulgar, obscene, or they smell so bad no one can stand to be around them.

  4. Regardless of the beard/no beard issue, there is the issue of apparently very long hair. I believe Rastafarians very often have long dreadlocks. One would think that this would be a much more dangerous safety issue in working around automobiles than having a beard. Of course a very long beard could also be considered a safety issue for the employee. Perhaps OSHA has some reccomendations on the problem.

  5. R.B: who cares? Everybody should……

    ……what about a police officer who was formerly in the military and has naked ladies tattooed on both forearms and in the Summer he wears short-sleeved uniform shirts?
    You really must draw a line on these things, and the freedom of religion crutch is becoming really outrageous.
    If I was this guy I would go back to work and claim that wearing no pants was part of my religion, or a red,white, and blue Cat-in the Hat topper was part of my religion.
    Or that giving customers the finger was protected by the Constitution.

    Come now —we must be reasonable.

  6. If a company wants to maintain/change it’s image, they should be allowed to enforce just about any type of personal appearance standard as long as its uniformly applied. If an employee doesn’t care for it then they should either not take the job or find a new one.

  7. Jim Meynard says:

    A business, especially a retail business, has every right to control the appearance and behavior of its customer contact employees. It also has the right to assign employees to the jobs and tasks it wishes them to do. Employees are not the determinants of their own responsibilities. If the individual wanted “customer contact” and was not getting it at the Jiffy Lube under his specifications, i.e. as a “rastafarian”, he is free to seek other employment. Jiffy Lube does not owe him a job and he does not own that job. He works at the pleasure of the company. He meets their covenants; he gets paid. That’s the rules, or should be.

  8. Which religion you choose to follow is a choice, which company you choose to work with is also a choice.

    In life when we are making choices we have to weight our values and priorities, and decide which route is the one we want to take.

    The owner of the company should have the ability to creat the public image that he chooses, if that does not match with your values and priorities then you should choose a job that does.

  9. To much emphasis is placed on the individuals rights and what they can and can not do at work. WE have to many cry babies in this world who want to get a free ride. If you dont like where you work and dont like the rules, get another job. Rules are put in place to control issuers, create a even and fair workplace and a safe one. I say you can either adhere to the company policies or move on.

  10. I personally feel if the owner has certain dress rules and appearance, then if you want a job then follow the policy or find another job. Where has our freedom to run own business gone, the employee made choice of wanting to work at the lube or where ever, then get in line with the policy. It is disgusting to work around people who want to run your business. Irreposnsibility is the name of the game today in our work force and even trying to run this country. Small business is the foundation of how capitialism is to be run, without that you are nothing but a scoialist foundation.

  11. I agree with TCT. A company is in business to make money not provide social services. If rules are set and applied in a uniform manner, then the employee can adhere or leave. The company in this instance paid for expert recommendations to improve their business. They are following those recommendations and have done more business by following them. Is the employee going to make up the loss when the company is forced to change because of him? Of course not. The court is wrong.

  12. I think we have gone way to far toward the “rights” of the employee as far as personal expression goes. The religious beliefs excuse is jst that. If the employee was really a religious person he would not have sued in the first place. In the second, the story states the employee asked to have the beard and still maintain customer contact. When the answer was no, he should have shaved or found another job. We wonder why businesses are having such a hard time these days and this kind of rediculous hardship pandering to employees is a big part of it. If you want a job, abide by the rules the employer sets forth. If you donlt like the rules, get another job or start your own company and see how hard it is.

  13. Much of what you are all saying is the same thing that was said to women when males had pictures of naked ladies, or wouldn’t hire gays, not hiring muslims.

    Many of you are also stating that it is not a religion. That is your opinion but many religions count temselves as the only real religion.

    If he keeps his facial hair neatly groomed there should be no problem.

    Appearence means very little to me if I am having someone change my oil – it is how they converse with me that matters.

    Shame on any of your HR “Pros” that are suggesting his beliefs do not mean anything. We are talking about facial hair –

    What if he were Muslim and practiced the custom of wearing a mustache if he is married – should he just lose his job as well?

  14. George Gomez says:

    I think it’s terrible. Does this mean that if Vanna White from Wheel Of Fortune turns to a relegion that requires she have a mustache, will she sue if they discontinue her contract?

  15. If the employee is otherwise neat and well-groomed, I believe allowing him to remain in his public-contact position (making the exception) would be feasible. However, I feel that the employer would be justified going forward in advising applicants that only those who conformed to the grooming policy would be allowed to have customer contact … To me, this situation should be a grandfathered event – the grooming policy was instituted after the employee had been hired and working successfully.

    I agree that the employer has the right/authority to insitute new dress codes, but when an existing employee’s religious beliefs are affected, I believe the exception should be made. I also, however, believe the individual should have to provide documentation from his/her religious leader (pastor, rabbi, priest, whetever) that this is indeed a valid part of the religion’s practice.

  16. If the New York Yankees can require shaving and a haircut, why not Jiffy Lube?

    If I’d been the store manager or HR generalist, I’d have tried for middle ground. Perhaps the employee would have agreed to a beard trim and a neat/clean ponytail. When either side takes an all or nothing stance the likelihood of an agreement is nearly gone.

  17. I agree with Wendy’s point in having documentation.

  18. To: TCT “If a company wants to maintain/change it’s image, they should be allowed to enforce just about any type of personal appearance standard as long as its uniformly applied. If an employee doesn’t care for it then they should either not take the job or find a new one.”

    At first, I tend to agree with you. Then I think about the south in the 60’s who had blacks use seperate entrances and seating. The “customer service” people back then were always white. If a business had a black greeter, their business would go down the street to the business with a “white” image.

    I am unsure about what role businesses need to play in promoting diverstiy and equality. According to the government, they need to be the forefront. However, this seems like an “unfunded mandate” for many businesses. If a company in an area where there is high bias and discrimination, then it is most likely that their attempts to buck that trend and promote diversity will result in lost revenue and business. The government’s response is that they will investigate and sue all the businesses not promoting EEO. The only problem is they don’t and can’t. Insead of just the punishment arm, there should be resources that the proactive employer can use to help educate and win over the public.

    We have entered into a new era where the black/ white issue is not the only discrimination that exists. There was a lot of fear mongering about Muslims and arabs after 911. Our government promotes holding the same without trial for safety and security reasons. The government shouldtake the lead in diffusing this, but like in world war II when it was expediant to prmote fear about Japanese Americans, so the government takes the low road, once again.

    If you think there is NO DISCRIMINATION, then I would submit that maybe you are in the “safe” group and a majority where you work and live. Imagine being different where you live (disability, color, race, ethnicity, religion) how would you be accepted and treated?

  19. Rangel Melendez says:

    I read on the “physical feature that sets the Rastafarians apart from all other groups is the wearing of their hair in dreadlocks. “Dreadlocks were inspired by a biblical injunction against the cutting of one’s hair” (Magical Blend, June/July 1994, p. 76). ”

    I do not agree with having to enforce such a rule when it makes a radical change. Disney has, for a long time, established similar work rule for their cast members. However, they enforce them from the get-go (new hires).

    I think Jiffy Lube and their consultants should have established different parameters for their employees and implement them accordingly to each location.

    I personnaly do not like people with facial hair (mustaches OK) because when someone has a face full of hair it makes me think they are hiding behind it. I cannot see the entire expression that will give me or inspire the trust of that person.

    A middle ground needs to be established, and Jiffy Lube failed to identify that middle ground.

  20. As CEO of the American Mustache Institute (, which serves as the ACLU of the mustached American people, it’s situations like these that speak to the need for a brave, freedom fighting organization such as ours.

  21. I agree with R.B. having a beard and long hair shouldn’t be that big of a deal in this day and age espeically if it is groomed and clean. In fact the people that look different can be a very good thing since they can relate to that certain group of people.

  22. AH – The only religous freedoms you mentioned are Christian things. What about the other religions out there?

  23. I for one feel the company should have the full right to enact whatever policies they find improving customer relations and profitability. As long as the individual was not being terminated and has the reasigned job in his or her normal responsibalities. If on the otherhand the individual was being reassigned to a different job than what they were orriginally hired for and or had filled before then and only then should the courts get involved to determin if the profitability for the company out weighed the possible termination or laying off of the individuakl. However that being said, if the company makes any type of change to its way of doing business, and it is accross the board, some people might have to be eliminated or replaced by a machine or other trained person. If the individual wishes to keep their job, they need to conform or go somewhere else. It is not THEIR company. The courts have NO PLACE in telling any company how they are to run their business.

  24. Rangel – How can you say you do not like people with facial hair – that is who they are.

    My goodness – imagine if I said I didn’t like women in pants only liked ones that wore dresses. There was a time when dresses were required due to their professional appearance – that was legally challenged and now no longer allowed.

  25. As far as the facial hair goes, I have no problem with it as I sport a mustache and goatee myself. I agree that the management of the company has the right to set standards and limits for the personal appearance of its employees. However, he was already in a position of customer contact when the consultant came in a proffered his little tidbits of “wisdom”.

    This particular employee, and those like him, should be able to keep his facial hair and locks as long as they are kept neat and tidy. Religious freedom has absolutely nothing to do with this issue. It is simply a tool to use to force an issue which could have been solved at the corporate level.

  26. Our CEO refused to hire a great candidate because he refused to cut his hair, yet we have many employees with piercings, tattooos and who where caps that are 3 sizes too big.
    Wierd policy….

  27. ED – GEORGE – & WENDY, you need to remember he works for the company, the company does not work for him. It is not his right to have that job, it is a privilege bestowed upon him from his employer. If he does not like the way the shop is run, or the rules he has to conform to in order to have a job given to him there, then he should quit. Maybe he should even start a Rastafarian shop so that he could dress and look how he like.

  28. Ballplayer –

    That is what people argued when women faced hardships in shops even ones with no customer contact.

    My grandma was the first female to work in the Oster machine shop area and put up with a lot of crap that today would millions in lawsuits.

    It is a dang beard for crying out loud not a swastika or KKK hood.

  29. Any person working a job that requires them to meet the customer or public, they should relize that grooming policy are designed to create a favorable image to the customer and public.

    This court case is just one of many that has and will take down small business. It doesn’t matter if the policy was from the begining or just created. It was developed and designed to help the company stay a float. A resonable accoumodation of placing this individual was by far a reasonable accomodation. What the real issue is… is money and trying to force their religion on society. We all have an obligation to the company we work for unless they require to put yourself in an unsafe manner or require you to act in an illegal manner. Were had company loyalty gone?

  30. Religion is a personal issue. Just as sexual preference and political views. None of these should affect the work place. Keep them seperate or quit your job. GOD says to obey the rules…

  31. This is truly a sad state of affairs when a company can’t state a simple grooming policy and try to exhibit a professional atmosphere especially to those that meet the customers. If the guy didn’t like the policy then take another position or find another job.

    If my company instituted a policy that I thought went against my religious beliefs I would have a decision to make… Stay or GO.. And I say this as a serious born again Christian..

    What about this? A company sets a mandatory meeting in which all employees are to be present.. The time was set during the slow period of the day as to not interfere with business. Everyone can attend except those whose faith dictate they are to observe a daily ritual during that time…. Does the company have to reschedule the meeting for one person during a terrible time?

    What if I started a religion that dictates that I have a tattoo on my face, or veiled my head at all times? Would I expect the company to change policies and procedures and consider me for jobs that went against reasonable policies? No …

    Now, on the other hand, If I am a customer service rep like this guy and they handed out a new policy that mandated to me as a condition of employment that I would have to observe a specific religious custom that had no relation to my job and was in direct conflict with mine, I would make that known then probably leave..

    If I don’t like where I work or there is religious conflict, then I can quit or start my own business and be my own boss.. Work is a priveledge not a right…

  32. I’ve always managerd with the Idea (Disney’s not mine) that employees are “On Stage” when they appear before the public. Their uniform is their “costume”, when they answer the phone they have a script, etc. Certain things are not allowed when you are on stage as an actor /actress like chewing gum, using words that are not in the script – like swearing and most of all appearance.


    I agree with Jiffy Lube. A company should have the right to determine what their “on stage” appearance should be.

    Example – Hooters. We all know what their “on stage” appearance is.

  33. I am the HR Administrator with a company that has 10 stores and a corporate office. Our stores are very high end. We have a very strict dress code for our employees in the stores and anyone hired is made aware of the dress code. Our corporate office has no customer contact so it is pretty lax, but we know the policy in the stores. If a corporate employee were to go work in the store even for 1 day, he/she would have to adhere to the policy for the stores. He should be granfathered in. I am sure by the time this new policy came into effect everyone knew of his religion. As long as he is neat and clean and not in danger or putting anyone else in danger he should be left alone. Any one hired after the new policy should adhere to the new policy.

  34. Deborah Phillips says:

    I run a small business (remember Jiffy Lube is a franchise not a large corporation) and many things can cause hardship. You cannot accomodate one person and ignore the rest of your business. I fail to see the religious discrimination angle here. He wasn’t fired or moved to a different position because he was Rastafarian, only because he didn’t adhere to grooming policy. He has the right to take a job some place where his appearance would not make a difference. For example, I wouldn’t work as a waitress if I was required to wear a short skirt or a midriff top because my Christian beliefs do not allow me to dress that way. If I worked someplace and they changed the dress code to make me wear something like that, I would find a different job not sue them.

  35. One thing that most people are forgetting. The franchise owner has HIS/HER money invested in the business and should have the right to enforce any appearance policy that HE/SHE chooses. That is HIS/HER right as a business owner. If an employee does not like the policy of the business then that person has the right to seek employment elsewhere. Lets not forget the rights of business owners.

  36. During my lunch I searched teh net and found no sources stating that dreadlocks or facial hair were required. I found no references to facial hair anywhere.

    I did find a FAQ that was answered that Dreads were a part of I and I but that they were not required.

  37. Well, I agree with the court too, but in fairness to Jiffy Lube, I do not patronize stores that have people with unkempt hair (untrimmed), or stores that have people helping me that sport facial piercings. For me, I do not like looking at either one, so I just don’t go back to the stores.

    I know this sounds shallow, but the hair thing freaks me out – it seems dirty and unkempt (and I realize that is my perspective and may not be true), and the body piercings are too unpleasant for me to look at. Ugh.

  38. This country was founded on freedom of religion. The grooming policy seems invalid. There are many men who have skin conditions which will not allow them to shave daily. Are they unemployable?

    If the hair is kept neat and clean, it should not be a problem. Focus on performance!

  39. One of the readers stated that they had checked and there was no law within the religion which is being claimed by this person which states that they should not cut the hair or Facial hairs. Has anyone verified that fact as yet?. I remember once when a person came to me for a job and he also produced his military photo of himself in his country. This was from a Islam country. I saw his photo – clean shaved no beared etc. neat dress. I could not believe that it was him who now stood before me with the usual full beared stating that it was his religion. He then stated to me that in their own country they must be clean shave even if their religion do not permit it. That they who are in the military cannot use their religion as an excuse. That only after they leave the military that they cold grow their beards and dress as their religion allowed. Remember,this is in their own practicing islamic country!!
    Now the question I ask is why are we to be more Holy than the Pope. If in their own country where the religion is the highest, and if they maintain their strick dress codes, why do we have to role over and change our entire structure to accomodate their religious belief.

  40. If this person is good with customers, you should be very glad to have him. If he isn’t, then perhaps that is the reason for moving him to a non-customer contact position. Otherwise, you are only hurting yourself by taking a good performer out of that position based on some consultant’s recommendations. There must have been something worthwhile from that consultant, like improving service, more competitive pricing, better physical appearance to the store itself. Whether the guy has a beard or long hair shouldn’t make a difference over whether he can provide good service to the customer. Or maybe you could hire someone that looks like George Bush, it sounds like most of you would get along very well with him.

  41. This is not a religon issue, it is a new company policy which employees can adhere to or leave. Employees have free will to remain employed if they wish. Once he refused to shave the facial hair, he should have been fired on the spot with just cause. I have no objection to long hair or facial hair of any kind, people are free to do as they will. The policy was across the board and evenly applied. The company should have the right to have their employees look however they want, weather it’s shaving, dressing a certain way or even wearing the paper hat.

  42. OK, here’s the question, did he suffer any negative employment action because of his religion? I don’t see that – he didn’t get fired, he didn’t get demoted (at least the information doesn’t indicate as much), so what employment action did he suffer? Not getting to work with customers? Having to work the same job he had before? He’s still got a job, he keeps his beard and his hair and life continues. Maybe I am not understanding something, but it does not appear that he suffered any significant negative employment action due to his religion? Do the discrimination laws now say where employers can assign their employees to work?

  43. What about wearing a yarmulke, or a cross on a bracelet or necklace.

  44. If the man did not lose pay then reasonable accomodations have been met. Period.

  45. Ann the Archer says:

    Slippery slope ….. First you say no religious exception because the person is “scarry”.

    Then, you say no fat people because people are scared of them sitting on them?

    What’s next? I won’t hire you because you are not pretty enough – you are qualified but you don’t meet the standards of the beautiful people.

  46. Been there says:

    Companies should have the freedom to set forth their policies, even regarding the appearance of employees. If the employee doesn’t like the rules, find a new job. Its free will. Too many employees cry out about the unfairness at work but you never hear about the companies who let employees go home early in inclement weather or let employees grandchildren visit.
    I work in a smaller company. We are very flexible in many areas but we do expect people to look professional and conform to the business standard. If someone has religious beliefs that require something considered the normal business standard, I think getting something in writing from the church head is reasonable. Too many employees act as if the company owes them and there is too much entitlement.

  47. Atendofrope says:

    I’m sorry to all you posters but if you SAW THE accompanying picture of this guy it would freak you out – he looks worse than a homeless man and the dreadlocks and beard practically touch the floor…AND he doesn’t wash so you can only imagine the smell. I would NEVER enter a jiffylube with him at the counter and I’m sick of employers not being able to have grooming/clothing policies – its a business – for crying out loud. Go to the Boston Herald to see a picture of this creature and you’ll want to take a shower after viewing him. I hope and pray the courts support the employer who has done more than expected to keep this guy employed OUT OF SIGHT Of paying and breathing customers.

  48. This is another case of employees/government dictating how a business is to be run. If employees are unhappy, they should move on, or even better, start their own business. The owner of the busness worked hard, and put his own money at risk to buy or open this busness, and he should be able to operate it as to make him the most profit. The more others interfere, the bigger risk of failure. I don’t see anyone else willing to help him if the busness fails.

  49. Joe Potter says:

    I agree with Wendy’s post. The employee was working successfully as a customer service guy when the grooming policy was changed. He should have been ‘grandfathered’. As to the safety concern, the Rasta employee was obviously performing satisfactorily, probably had his dreadlocks tied up and covered. So I agree with the court decision to allow this employee to continue his customer service responsibilities as long as he did his job well.

  50. To kathryn: Yes, I believe being assigned to the “lower bay” rather than working with customers is a negative employment action. There are plenty of cases that could be refered to support that the man would suffer loss of potential promotion opportunities not to mention job satisfaction. Supposedly, working in the light of day interacting with humans would be preferrable to working in a pit under an automobile.
    What if this Jiffy Lube were instead a television network and the person is question were 30-40 something woman on the verge of losing her looks. And the network wanted to transfer her to the newsroom instead of her prime time news anchor position – because the network wanted to change its image. Sound familiar? I bet some of you would be all over that.

  51. Would God say to obey the rules regardless of what they are?

  52. Atendofrope –

    I cannot find a photo on the Boston Herald website only two articles. Can you provide a link to the photo?

  53. To those who believe the company should be able to do what ever it wants regarding this dress code,

    I am buying the company you work at and decided that I will change the name to “ZZ TOP Ltd.” Immediately everyone must grow a beard or leave employment. Any beards less that 6″ long after 6 months will bedeemed unacceptable and warrant termination. After a year it will need to be 12″.

    I really don’t want to hear your bellyaching. Its my company and if you don’t like it, there’s the door. It may not be fair, but again, life is not fair. We have an image to uphold people!

  54. Mike,

    Good for you. I am glad you are becoming a business owner. I have no problem with your requirement to have all employees grow beards although I think it will be a problem for some but not all of the female employees. I believe it is certianly your right as the owner to make whatever requirements you feel are necessary to run your business and the employees have the right to work for you or move on. Good luck.

  55. Thanks Andy.

    I just feel more comfortable working with people with long beards. I have never found a woman to have a foot long beard, so if I do, then I will need to refine my policy.

  56. Mike – in order for Andy to get your point you have to hit something he feels strongly about.

  57. Mike,

    I guess you will have an all guy shop. As you know, you cannot have one set of rues for the guys and another set of rules the ladies. Make sure and chrank up the ZZ Top tunes and play Leggs over and over. Since all you will have is guys there will not be any women to offend………

  58. Ed 3,

    The initial report is something I feel strongly about. That is the government/courts tell a business owner he he or she can run their business. If a business owners wants to prohibit beards and long hair, then they should answer only to the customers that purchase their goods or serivce or the employees who stay or walk. THAT IS SOMETHING I FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT!!

    Everybody on here that wants to make the issue about is beards or long hair safe or proper in a customer contact enviornment is missing the point. I could care less about the fact that the rules were changed after he was hired or if he has to work in the pit verses behind the counter. This is about employees taking petty issue to court and the courts/government telling a business owner how they can run their business. If the man involved wants to have long hair and a beard, and the business owner says no. Then the courts and government should stay out of the issue and let the employee and employer work it out.

  59. The business does not have to be all guy – women can do a couple of things if they want to continue working there or get hired there.

    1. Hormone therapy.
    2. Prosthetic beard.

    I am sure there are more.

  60. At one time business didn’t want to hire women – It was their company why should they have had to hire women.

    If a company suddenly decides that all employees must wear shirts that have a picture of breasts on them – (its their company) is that OK?

    The main point here is that as far as I can find out it is not required by his religion and a preference within the religion – then he has lost the case.

  61. Kathleen M R says:

    Most people might say what is the big deal he just wants to grow his hair long and have a beard, but the real issue is: Where do we draw the line? I often wonder if employees take their employers to court because they feel that it might be an easy way to “win the lottery” because of the back pay they receive in some cases.

    Anyway, to some degree, appearance plays an important role because after all they are projecting an image for their customers and that makes a difference for the employer and the employer should have a right to its code of ethics. Also, religion does not belong in the workplace!

  62. I like how people come up with extreme examples to make a point but I will play along. If a compnay wants the employees to wear shirts with breasts on them its OK with me. But they will have two issues. First, after all of the publicity wears off, no one will use that businesses good or service. The maket place will force the compnay out of business or to make a change. Secondly, an employee will file a Title XIII complaint on the basis of a hostile work envoirnment or sexual haressment case. Either way, the shirts won’t last long.

  63. I thought religion was also a protected class!

  64. Religion here is not an issue. Nobody was singled out because of their religion or any particular religion singles out. This man can still practice his religious beliefs somewhere else or he can abide by the rules and stay where he is. It is his choice.

  65. Is anyone really looking for fancy pants employees to change their oil? Are you willing to pay $10.00 more to have “pretty” people change your oil?

  66. To kathleen:

    Most people will NOT file a lawsuit because of the hassles involved. Even if they win, they could end up owing money on taxes because they must pay taxes on the full award and not just what they get. Therefore, rarely there is a lottery.

    And as far as religion in the workplace, it is already there. It is not right for one group to impose their religious views on other workers.

    In Ohio, an “at will” state, if a current employee leaves employment due to a material change in their employment conditions, they would probably be entitled to unemployment.

    I agree that an employer should be able to set standards that are going to promote business, unless those standards are tied to prejudice of the community where they exist. If the employee feels that this his faith prevents him from complying with the company policy, he can make his case to the company just as a “conscientious objector” would in the military.

    Management needs to look at situations like this to be sure that they are not promoting or supporting discrimination. If after careful thought and consideration the company decides that they must keep the standard with no exceptions, they should have a “rationale” that they can explain in court to 12 regular citizens.

  67. BallPlayer says:

    My point is simply that the business owner has the right to set dress code standards the same as they have the right to set any other hiring requirement. If the employee doesn’t like the standard that is fine, he is not obligated to take the job. After all he is just a shop worker, it’s not he he isn’t replaceable.

  68. Wow, this sure drew a lot of responses! I have not read all of them but just in case you have missed this – check out the Church of Body Modification. Pretty scary that this is a religion – wouldn’t want my children to be recruited.

  69. Back to basics, please. The franchise owner paid a consultant to find ways to increase business. One recommendation was a grooming policy for customer contact employees. The result of this and other recommendations was that business increased. No grooming policy was implemented for non-customer contact employees. The employee was offered a non-customer contact position (pay was not noted as an issue) in lieu of complying with the grooming policy. So the “right” that seems to be in question is the right of the employee to keep the job he prefers, which is customer contact. Apparently he suffered no other harm or discrimination.

    Job requirements change over time. I agree with Frances’ comments above. If the owner had documented job performance problems, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Absent that, my opinion nudges to the side that the owner made reasonable accommodation. Unless the employee’s religion requires customer contact, then this is a personal preference and not a religions practice issue.

  70. I’m amazed the court even heard this case. The Rastafarian religion does not make long hair and beards an absolute must. Jiffy Lube, however, should have the right to impose policies that impact the professional appearance of their employees or their safety. Given the business offered an alternative to the employee and that the employee has the option to seek employment else where this case was a waste of court time and legal cost. Any claim of discrimination, in this case, is nothing more than a cry for sympathy. The employee needs to make a decision…shave, or work in the lower position or seek employment else where.

  71. Greg O'Shea says:

    I think some flexibility is a good competitive idea for recruiting, but customers feel comfortable with people who are well groomed. If Jiffy Lube can set itself apart from its competition by offering a well groomed environment where the employees are well kept and the store is well kept – vs a typical garage where everyone is greasey – they have that right.

    Give the employees fair notice that things will change and all is fair! The employees can either be grateful that the employer is looking to make money (and therefore continue to offer employment, benefits, better wages, etc.), move on the another employer – OR start their own company “Rasta Lube – Dreadlocks, don’t dread oil changes”.


  73. As a HR professional AND Rastafarian, I think I can speak on this issue better than most of you. I have eight years of HR experience and join my current employer as a practicing Rasta.

    I believe that any work place can support professionalism and religious freedom at the same time. In reading the comments above, it saddens me to hear how closed minded and money driven most of seem to be. What about this situation being considered a learning opportunity to expand, not just the companies bottom line, but employee satisfaction by making special provisions for people with specific needs? We do it with ADA regulations.

    Ok, let’s say you all that oppose giving the employee some stake in where they work have your way, how long do you think you will be able to keep employees with that mindset? Do you not realize it is much cheaper to keep’em (or retain them) than it is to keep hiring new employees? Talk about perserving the bottom-line — “hello”! If you work with an employee, to the point where all party’s involved win than that is the ultimate solution…not my way or the highway. Granted, I do believe in dress codes, which I follow to the letter, however you really have to know your employees, target market and company mission/vision before implementing one. Additionally, this could have been a great opportunity to teach the staff how to better appreciate each others differences by educating them. You have a greater chance on making serious money when your employees feel respected and supported. A clean face does not mean that the customer will receive better treatment – to tell an employee that you can not have customer contact (something that seemed to make him happy) is sad.

    For all those geniunely interested in learning about why Rastafarians do not cut their hair read: Numbers 6:5 of the Old Testament – it is a special one makes with the Creator for a period of time. The unintelligent person that referenced Ganja smoking does not know what they are talking about. This is not a religious practice, but a choice…the hair issue is a legitamite religious practice. In all of my years as a rastaman I have never smoked. Again, many people think they understand this way of life, but clearly don’t.

    I hate that this matter had to reach the court system…people must learn other productive ways to resolve conflict…what a seriously missed opportunity to advance the minds and hearts of people.

  74. The employer has the right to determine what type of employee image he wishes to represent in his business. Enough is enough on the courts and suing, if he doesn’t like the job then quit! Things like this get out of wack, next thing you know everyone has to read between the lines and sue about something. What about the women who wear a veil across their face and take a drivers license picture. I could put any name to that picture since you cannot see her name. I could sneak in a terrorist, cover their face, say it’s my religion and put it on my drivers license and ID’s. The business has the right to request such a menial change.

  75. if companies are not permitted to change their working enviroment to attract customers then someone would challenge Hooter’s outfits their wattresses wear. now who in their right mind would want that.

  76. First, the improvement in sales was probably due to the Hawthorne effect. Second, the consultant that recommended the no facial hair needs to be taken out to the wood shed. Third, Jiffy Lube was taken off my list years ago due to lying to the customer, me (Paying for services they did not perform).

  77. The best time to deal with these types of problems is during the interview process. A signed and witnessed agreement of the companies policies should suffice. If you don’t agree with the company’s wishes or policies then you, as a potential employee, have the right look elsewhere for employment that better suits your personal needs and can accomodate your religious requirements. Best of luck to you.

    Make it perfectly clear in your company guidelines and policy that violations will be dealt with seriously and could lead to corrective action including dismissal.

    Also, a statement making it perfectly clear that the document is being signed purely by choice and not under duress.

    What was the old addage? ‘Dress to impress.’ Makes sense to me.

  78. To Al:
    I like your post.

    I find it hard to believe that the Hawthorne effect (from Elton Mayo Studies 1932) can directly account for the improvement in sales, unless the “clean shave policy” resulted in a sense of esprit de corps among the workers and a corresponding change in behavior that was seen by customers as a better “value.”

    I agree, the consultant should be taken to the wood shed and then power washed with high pressure steam, then sued for pretending to be a real consultant.

    I, too, have removed Jiffy Lube from my list. I check that list annually to see who is “naughty and nice” and they have yet to make it back on.

  79. atendofrope says:

    There is no reason this employee can’t follow the rules – he did not suffer any discrimination or loss of pay – these frivalous lawsuits have got to stop. We have to stop bringing business decisions of a private employer to the courts and wasting tax payer money. The company didn’t break any laws. A business has a right to a dress code. I am also in HR and over the years have had to deal with numerous “hygience” and appearance issues – complaints from supervisors and coworkers on an employee who smells, farts, burps, dresses like a bum, doesn’t wash their hair, has tatoos, piercings etc….. I’m not violating anyone’s religious beliefs or civil rights by telling employees to follow a professional dress code, or in some cases, a safety hazard – like this guy’s dreadlocks could be in a manufacturing environment if he doesn’t wear a hair net, or in a restaurant for the same reason, as a cook or waitstaff. STOP THE MADNESS and turning everything into discrimination. It’s like playing the race card when all else fails – I didn’t get the job, promotion or whatever…because I’m black or hispanic etc. Even HR people get sick and tired of people trying to use the laws put in place to protect people from REAL violations as a shield to do whatever they please. That was not the intent. I’m just waiting for a hooters waitress or similiar profession that has to dress in like costumes to sue their employer for sexual harassment. I’m waiting for DUNKIN donut personnel to sue their employer because orange/pink clashes with their skincolor and/or their religion. We make reasonable accomodations for religious beliefs, we do not design our business plan for our company based on YOUR religious beliefs. get a life.

  80. To atendofrope:

    I too have been in HR for many years. the longer I go, however, I understand the madness is not only on the part of the employee. The employer and employees use policies and procedures and laws to define their workplace. Funny that when an employee challenges a rule or practice it is madness, but when an employer writes a “vague” policy to allow for “wriggle room” that it is good practice.

    Beyond all the laws and rules, we are all people. If there isn’t good faith communication and actions, then it is 12 people who will be tasked to determine what is or is not “madness.”

    An employer can change their dress code and they can take other actions to try to improve business. It would be “madness” to change the dress code to frustrate, punish, or demean or embarass an employee. It would be “madness” to change the dress code because they want to encourage an employee to seek work with another employer. So before an employer makes a change to the dress code, they should be aware of unintended consequences and perceptions. The employer who deals “in good faith” with its employees and builds trust, will always do better in a court of law than the company who simply says they have a “right” to do something. Actually, they will more often than not avoid court all together.

    Finally, being in the Human Resources business over 30 years, I find that when the law is the “last resort.” An employer needs to resolve problems before they go to court. If an employee is suing because he no longer can grow his hair, I guarantee you there is more there. An experienced HR person would try to find out what is really going on and resolve the real problem, rather than stating that the company has a right to change the rules. Now, that IS madness.

    Remember, what is REALLY going on is going to come out in court in front of 12 regular people. That’s when the dirty laundry gets aired about who said what to who, what promises where broken, what things got said in anger. In the end, it is not pretty or pleasant for anyone.

    So as my advice, put yourself in the employee’s shoes and try to see the situation from their perspective. Don’t assume that they are trying to get one over or trying to make the courts their “lottery.” If you can do this, you will find mutually agreeable solutions. At least the employee will see that you are trying and that may create enough trust for the employee to give you some room to manage.

  81. To Mike:

    Finally, someone that is looking at things from the EE’s point of view. Mike, I completely agree with you! I referenced it before and I will say it again…”companies can not afford not to work with their employees – there has to be middle ground in which all partys win”. I am confinced that we all lose when things get to the level when courts must be involved. As a people, we are weaker for it.

  82. To Mike:
    I agree with the fact that the consultant in this case missed the boat but the employer did as well. The one thing that was missed in this case was the concept that a well groomed beard does not portray an unkept man. As a matter of fact it can also give the illusion that the individual is a scholar. I have not been in HR as long you but I also teach at a respected college and several highly sought after professors sport beards of various styles, length and shade. My point here is that we tend to agree that going to court was an over kill and that other options were available that could have helped the situation. What we don’t know is how well the EE kept his beard, was it really a distraction and was he given the option to discuss his thoughts with the employer and consultant. A win-win can only occur when all sides have come to a an agreeable solution.

  83. Deborah Phillips says:

    Most of you are missing the point. The issue is not whether or not the company’s appearance policy is good or bad rather that the company discriminated against this person due to his religion. It doesn’t matter whether anyone agrees or disagrees with the policy. It is up to the plaintiff to prove he was adversely affected based on his religious beliefs. In the story, the court only ruled on Jiffy Lube’s claim of undue hardship not on whether or not the plaintiff actually has a case in regards to religious discrimination. I personally believe that case will be more difficult for the plaintiff. I also see this as an attorney trying to make a name for themselves.

  84. To Deborah:

    What you say is true concerning the case. I think the true point isn’t what is or isn’t lawful. That is what everyone keeps fighting about, who has the right to do what. The true point is that this is going to cost money to defend and be hard on all involved, no matter what the outcome.

    Further, in the court of law, when discrimination is alleged, then it isn’t just about one policy or discipline (like being clean shaven); it is about whether a pattern exists over all the policies and disciplines, and hiring, and promotions, etc. And its not about whether discrimination really exists, but does it LOOK like it exists to 12 regular people. That is where if the company didn’t keep good documentation, then they look like they are being deceptive.

    Most lawsuits are filed not by people looking to “get rich” but by people who are pissed off and think they are right. Calm them down and listen to what their veiwpoint is goes a long way to staying out of court paying huge lawyer fees.

  85. The real point here is that Jiffy Lube was not terminating this employee. They were just removing that part of his work that included customer contact. We have certainly reached a sad state when the mere modification of job description invokes a lawsuit. The employee should be grateful to have a job, He isn’t grateful because that mind set would contradict the “entitlement” belief system that appears to be permeating our culture. His frivolous lawsuit will tie up the employer with burdensome tome constraints that will take him away from time that could be better spent keeping the operation viable and protecting the jobs of all the employees. Additionally valuable cash assets that (like the time issue) are also needed to stay viable will be spent on attorneys, depositions and other wasted legal wranglings and depleted from the business.

  86. To Doug:

    I guess you will hold that view, until such time that the company makes demands on you which you feel are insensitive to your beliefs and an assault on your dignity.

    I’m not saying the company can not set standards, but that the company needs to be aware of the WAY they implement those standards. If the company is percieved as abusing their employees and assaulting their dignity, then it is more than likely going where no company wants to go, to court. If the company explains their rationale for changes and listens to employees concerns and makes an attempt to address them, then you probably won’t be headed for court.

    What is interesting, is that the court usually is interested in what steps were taken so you did not end up in court. If a company simply takes the “I’M RIGHT and HE’S WRONG” approach without explaining what they did to deal with their employees in a civil manner, then they already have a losing hand with any jury.