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February 12, 2019

Missouri man allegedly fired from job after refusing to cut his long hair for religious reasons

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A man whose faith prohibits him from cutting his hair cries foul after he was terminated for his long hair. He has reason to believe the company's "oversight" places it at fault.

A man whose religious beliefs prevent him from cutting his hair has spoken up against his employer who fired him due to his long hair. 

Donzell Lenard of St. Louis, Missouri brought his plight to the attention of KMOV-TV revealing he had been working for the company Energy Petroleum for a month before his superiors decided to terminate him. The reason they gave was his long hair

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Lenard’s complaint stems from the company’s failure to inform him about its rules regarding long hair when he was first hired. His hair was long when he started with the company and he had no idea then that it was going to be a problem. He’d been working for weeks fueling trains, cranes and tractors for the fuel lubricant distributor when he was told and he recalls, 

“If I couldn’t cut my hair, I had to go.”

Lenard thinks his termination was unfair. If his hair had been a problem since the beginning, he should have been informed then.

“Why wasn’t it brought to me then? Then all of a sudden you say it was overlooked. How could you overlook that? How do you overlook that I have long hair?”

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According to the frustrated employee, his company gave him documents outlining their rules on his first day of work. But none of those rules pertained to the banning of long hair. The document on rules of safety, appearance and dress policy was only given to him a few weeks ago.  

“Their rule should have been out there. It should not have been overlooked. You told me about every other rule,” he reasons.

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Lenard is a member of the Black Hebrew Israelite faith whose followers believe they are the descendants of the lost tribe of Israel. As such, it is their tradition not to cut their hair or beard. 

Based on Title VII of the federal law, employees are encouraged to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs. More often, the employer loses when an employee fights for his right to practice his religion in the workplace. According to employment attorney Brian Pezza,

“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.”

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While Lenard thinks there isn’t a chance he would get his job back, his employers at Energy Petroleum have not responded to his complaints. Neither can they be reached for comment. 

Lenard’s experience is similar to a news anchor who was also terminated due to her hair. Brittany Noble-Jones revealed through an article on Medium that she was fired by her boss when she decided to stop straightening her curly locks and wear them naturally. Noble-Jones said her boss told her that her hair was “unprofessional” and that viewers of their newscast needed to see a beauty queen. Noble-Jones complained about her employer’s irrational reasoning and seemingly racist views which eventually led to her termination. 

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