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EEOC Sues Taco Bell for Refusing to Accommodate Nazirite's Uncut Hair

The Old Testament describes a “Nazirite” as a man or woman who vows to abstain from eating grapes or raisins, or drinking any beverage derived from grapes; to refrain from cutting or combing his or her hair; and to avoid corpses and graves, even those of family members.  The vow may be temporary or permanent, and the rules for each differ slightly.  Probably the most famous Nazirite in history was Samson, who derived his considerable strength from his uncut hair- that is, until his paramour, Delilah, cut his hair while he slept, making him vulnerable to the conquering Philistines.


Fast forward thousands of years, to present-day North Carolina. Christopher Abbey, a modern-day Nazirite, has not cut his hair since he became a practicing Nazirite at the age of fifteen.  Mr. Abbey began working for Taco Bell in 2004, when he was nineteen.  Six years later, Taco Bell told Mr. Abbey that he had to cut his hair in order to comply with its grooming policy.  Mr. Abbey refused, stating that he could not cut his hair because of his religious beliefs.

The EEOC has sued Family Foods, Inc., the corporate owner of the Fayetteville Taco Bell franchise where Mr. Abbey worked, claiming that it unlawfully refused to accommodate Mr. Abbey’s sincerely-held religious belief. But is the employer’s refusal to accommodate that belief really unreasonable?  Call me crazy, but I would rather have my beefy burrito served up by someone whose hair is combed and neat than someone who has not cut or combed his hair in ten years.  I suspect the overwhelming majority of Taco Bell customers agree. It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

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Martha Zackin