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EEOC files religious bias charge over dreadlocks



The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against a supermarket chain that allegedly refused to hire a job applicant who would not cut his dreadlocks for religious reasons.

The agency said in a statement distributed Wednesday but dated Tuesday that Bowling Green, Kentucky-based Houchens Food Group Inc., which according to its website operates 400 stores in 15 states, declined to hire Matthew Barnett.

The EEOC said that when he applied for a job as an assistant manager at a supermarket, Mr. Barnett informed him that he would have to cut his dreadlocks, to which he replied that he wears his dreadlocks because of his religious beliefs and would not do so. The interview was “immediately terminated”

; and the supermarket refused to hire him, the EEOC said in its statement.

The company was accused of violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in a lawsuit filed in US District Court in Lexington, Kentucky.

An attorney for the Houchens did not respond to a request for comment.

The EEOC said in September it filed a lawsuit against emergency transportation companies for discriminating against and retaliating against applicants and employees who wear beards. That trial is ongoing.


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