Thursday, April 19, 2018
News Roundup

Publix faces federal lawsuit over dreadlocks after store tells Rastafarian he must cut his hair

Florida's leading grocer Publix is facing a federal lawsuit after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says it didn't allow a Nashville man to work in one of its Tennessee stores because he wouldn't cut the dreadlocks he wears as part of his religion.

The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Nashville, Tenn., says Publix broke the law when it hired Guy Usher, 28, but then forced him to quit a day before he was set to start because store managers said he needed to cut his hair above his shoulders.

Usher wears his hair in long dreadlocks as part of Rastafari, an Africa-centered religion that developed in 1930s Jamaica.

"Management officials have a responsibility to consider all reasonable requests to accommodate employees' religious beliefs and practices," Katharine W. Kores, a district director for the EEOC, said in a prepared statement.

The EEOC said it tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement before filing the lawsuit, but couldn't. Now it is asking for an injunction to prohibit Publix from "discriminating against employees based on their religion in the future, as well as back pay, compensatory, and punitive damages."

Usher applied to one of Tennessee's 41 Publix locations in January for part-time work. The lawsuit says he was going to be hired as a cashier or produce clerk. Usher was offered the job and told his manager he would not cut his hair, but could wear it back in a hat.

When the manager said he would still have to cut it, Usher called back citing the federal equal-employment opportunity laws. After passing a drug screening, Usher reiterated to managers he was not comfortable cutting his hair because of his religion — that's when Publix withdrew its offer, according to the lawsuit. Rastafarians usually do not cut their hair in adherence to a passage in the Old Testament.

Sign up for News At Noon

The latest headlines with your lunch.

"At Publix, we value and appreciate the diversity of all of our associates," the chain said in a statement. "We work to provide environments where known religious beliefs and practices of our associates and applicants are reasonably accommodated."

However, the store said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on Usher's case because it is pending litigation.

"Please know that we are dedicated to the employment security of our associates and that we regularly provide accommodations to associates due to their religious beliefs, as required by law," the statement said.

This isn't the first time the Lakeland-based grocery chain has been under heat for its grooming mandates. The store also doesn't allow men to have beards, prompting a popular internet petition last year.

Publix employs more than 188,000 people across seven states. It was founded in Winter Haven in 1930 and now has more than 700 locations in Florida.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.

Comments
Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as new CEO

Tech Data names Rich Hume to take over as new CEO

CLEARWATER — Tech Data, Tampa Bay’s largest public company, has named Richard "Rich" T. Hume as its new chief executive officer, effective June 6.Hume, Tech Data’s executive vice president and chief operating officer since joining the company in 2016...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Nikita Kucherov drives Lightning past Devils

Nikita Kucherov scores two goals and delivers some big hits as the Lightning beats the Devils, 3-1, in a physical Game 4 that pushes Tampa Bay to within one win of clinching the series.Meanwhile, the Rays beat the Rangers to as Jake Faria pitche...
Updated: 28 minutes ago
Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

Meet the state’s top pole vaulter: River Ridge’s Stone Baker

NEW PORT RICHEY — Long before he became the best pole vaulter in the state, Stone Baker was 12 years old and liked to play football.He didn't know a vaulting pole from a tennis racket.Then one day his friend, Evan Bales, asked him to come over ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

Tampa Bay disciples of 'Wild Wild Country' guru remember Oregon commune

SPRING HILL Joe Lemieux sat on the cream sofa near several relics from another era in his life, out of place in this retiree’s pastel-tinged living room and brought into the morning light specifically for this occasion. There was a beaded nec...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Could Bruce Hector be the sleeper of USF’s draft class?

Could Bruce Hector be the sleeper of USF’s draft class?

TAMPA — His collection of skills seems to ooze NFL draft jargon: hip swivel, burst, agility, leverage, active hands.Over the past three or four months, most — or all — of these attributes have been affixed to USF defensive line...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Child, 6, struck by motorcycle on Ulmerton Road

Child, 6, struck by motorcycle on Ulmerton Road

A 6-year-old child was injured Thursday morning after being struck by a motorcycle on Ulmerton Road, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Just after 6:30 a.m., the child walked into the path of the motorcycle in the outermost lane on Ulmerton Road...
Updated: 2 hours ago
2018 NFL draft countdown: Bucs GM Jason Licht speaks

2018 NFL draft countdown: Bucs GM Jason Licht speaks

We're a week away from the NFL draft in Dallas …Bucs general manager Jason Licht will speak to the media at 11:30 a.m. today at One Buc Place in Tampa. He'll take questions for about 20 minutes and use a lot of words to say nothing.That's the g...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Joe Henderson: Boycott Starbucks? Take a deep breath, folks

Joe Henderson: Boycott Starbucks? Take a deep breath, folks

A couple of weeks ago I received a call from someone doing job-related background checks on a friend of mine. He wanted to meet face-to-face, so we did what many other people do in that situation. We picked a Starbucks that was near to both of us. I’...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Forecast: Clear skies for Tampa Bay lead to a hot, humid and rainy weekend

Forecast: Clear skies for Tampa Bay lead to a hot, humid and rainy weekend

Expect warm weather, clear skies and a slight increase in humidity across Tampa Bay in the next few days, before an incoming cold front raises the chance for rain.Temperatures this morning are in the low 60s with a little bit of damp air. The dry air...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Downtown’s success creates noisy problem for St. Petersburg

Downtown’s success creates noisy problem for St. Petersburg

Times Staff Writer ST. PETERSBURG — Downtown’s rapid growth has not been without tension between its residents and the businesses and events that draw exuberant crowds. The city, which has been attempting to amend its noise ordinance o...
Updated: 4 hours ago