A man in St. Louis, Missouri says his refusal to cut his hair based on his religious beliefs has cost him his job.
Donzell Lenard worked at Energy Petroleum for a month where he put gas into trains, trucks, cranes, tractors or other vehicles and equipment. He said the job made him good money.
However, he told KMOV 4 Feb. 7 his employment was terminated when the hiring manager told him his hair was too long.
“He said that if I couldn’t cut my hair, I can’t work,” said Lenard, who noted that he had his hair down on his first day on the job.
Lenard is part of the Black Hebrew Israelite faith, which has followers who believe they are the descendants of a lost tribe of Israel. It’s a tradition for Israelites not to cut hair or beards.
“Why wasn’t it brought to me then?” Lenard wondered of his hairstyle. “Then all of a sudden you say it was overlooked. How could you overlook that? How do you overlook that I have long hair?”
Lenard provided documents from his company to the news station that outlined rules. He said he got them on his first day of work. Then, he showed the station a document regarding safety, appearance and the dress policy. He said he was only handed that paperwork a few weeks ago.
“That paper is the first paper I received [about grooming],” he said.
“Their rule should have been out there. It should not have been overlooked. You told me about every other rule,” Lenard added.
Energy Petroleum has not issued a public response on the matter. Atlanta Black Star has reached out for comment.
Employment attorney Brian Pezza of Lewis Rice LLC told KMOV the law mandates employers make some kind of effort to accommodate employee’s religious beliefs.
“Title VII of federal law requires that they at least make the effort to see whether they can accommodate the employee,” Pezza told the news outlet. “It’s not a winning case for an employer to decide that they are going to challenge an employee’s actual religious beliefs. You don’t want to go getting into how often people go to church or whether they just were converted or how they’ve gotten to those beliefs.”
As for the status of Lenard’s employment, he initially just wanted his job back but more recently, he expressed doubt to KMOV that the company would rehire him.