(CN) – The 7th Circuit rejected a Rastafarian’s argument that a security firm discriminated against him when it told him it would only hire him if he cut his dreadlocks off.
Lord Osunfarian Xodus claimed that a Wackenhut Corp. manager, Clarence McCuller, knew of his Rastafarian beliefs while interviewing him for a security guard position.
As described in the opinion, “Rastafarians believe dreadlocks symbolize a bond with God, citing this passage in the Bible: ‘[N]o razor shall come upon his head; … and he shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.'”
But an Illinois district court wasn’t convinced that McCuller was aware of the religious significance of Xodus’ dreads, and tossed his claims.
Judge Joseph Bauer, writing for the three-judge panel of the appeals court, agreed. He found the lower court correctly “concluded that McCuller did not know that Xodus wore his dreadlocks for religious reasons.”
“Nor does the fact that Xodus’ name begins with the word ‘Lord’ persuade us that McCuller knew the dreadlocks were religious,” the judge said.
The Rastafarian interviewed at Wackenhut after losing his job at the Securitas security firm the same week.
According to McCuller, when he told Xodus that Wackenhut would not hire him because of its grooming policy, Xodus said: “That’s why I’m suing Securitas … it’s against my belief.”
“McCuller testified that he was not aware of the Rastafarian religion and did not equate Xodus’ use of the word ‘belief’ with religion. He said he told Xodus as he left that he could always reapply if he ‘took out his braids.'” the opinion says.
Bauer rejected Xodus’ argument that “use of the word ‘belief’ and the dreadlocks themselves sufficed to notify McCuller of the religious nature of his hairstyle.”
“Unlike race or sex, a person’s religion is not always readily apparent,” the judge said. He added that the case boiled “down to whether or not Xodus expressly brought his religious belief to McCuller’s attention.”
“The court’s decision to credit McCuller’s testimony that Xodus never informed him that religious belief required him to wear dreadlocks is both plausible from the evidence and sufficiently explained in the opinion,” the justice said.
The court also ruled as moot Xodus’ claims for mitigated and punitive damages.