Grooming policy for employees may be illegal

Can an employer adopt a grooming policy that requires male workers who have contact with customers to be clean-shaven and have trimmed hair? Maybe … but this might amount to religious discrimination, according to a Massachusetts Supreme Court decision. The worker in this case was a technician at a Jiffy Lube service station. He was a Rastafarian and his religion did not permit him to shave or cut his hair. The company told him that if he refused to abide by the grooming policy, he could only work in the lower bay and would not be allowed to have contact with customers.

In the religious discrimination lawsuit, the company argued that it shouldn’t be forced to make an exception for the worker because the company had a right to control its public image. The court sent the case for trial, but it suggested that the employer might have to give in. To win, the court said, Jiffy Lube would have to show that all conceivable accommodations of the employee’s religion would impose an “undue hardship” on its business.