Friday, October 12, 2007

Dreadlocked TSA Employee Loses RFRA Claim

Scales In Francis v. Mineta, No. 06-1293 (3rd Cir. October 11, 2007), the Third Circuit has held that a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Security Screener does not have a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) for being discharged for wearing dreadlocks.  Instead, Title VII is the exclusive remedy.

Here is some of the opinion:

Francis alleges that he informed Betz that he would not cut his dreadlocks, and told him that the refusal to cut his dreadlocks was based on his religious beliefs. Francis further alleges that Betz then ordered him to sign a separation agreement, terminating his employment. Thereafter, Francis filed the instant suit in the District Court . . . .

[The Senate report on RFRA] explains: “[n]othing in this act shall be construed as affecting religious accommodation under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Based on previous precedent and legislative history, the opinion seems perfectly correct.  It should be noted that were it otherwise, federal employees could back a run-around the administrative scheme involving the EEOC established under Title VII.  Although some employees are able to do this for race discrimination claims under Section 1981, federal employees have long been held not to be able to do avoid the Title VII administrative scheme under Brown v. GSA.

Hat Tip: John Sargent


Employment Discrimination | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Dreadlocked TSA Employee Loses RFRA Claim:


This is discrimination. I dont know why employers use "hair" as apart of the hiring or firing process. Dreads are no danger and who are they to define what is professional. If everyone had dreads then we would disrminate on those without the same way. Its just plain ignorant.

Posted by: Juan | Oct 16, 2007 8:10:02 AM

I for one have locks wich I love. I am black and proud of my culture and spiritual beliefs I thought that's what the Pilgrims and Puritans came to, and invaded this continent for, to be free from spiritual peoples culture language dress etc..was terminated when we became slaves, I was woundering are we free yet or do we still have to asymilate. my locks grow from my head from my black african scalp. When my ancestors were dragged here it was to make the European man rich. I am not asking for a government hand out for locks but Europeans dragged my ancestors here leave the locks man and woman alone.

Posted by: Chinua Dean | Jul 26, 2008 3:43:59 PM

This is very difficult for me to address. I have mentained a Rastafarian Faithbase Practice for over twenty years now and I too was disbarred from employment by a Central Florida Correctional facility. I have dreads. I am now a candicate for another police agency but I wonder the outcome. So far, things look good but I am skeptical. It is ironic how we can only enter theses organization through through wrongdoings, meaning we are only invited behind bars as cellmates.

It is time for "Change".

Posted by: Clueless | Jul 30, 2008 4:57:10 PM

Slavery? As a defense for dreadlocks? Oh come on now . . . that's ignorant.

Fact: Those in any uniformed service of this country, of any form (City, County, State and ESPECIALLY Federal) must command respect. To do so they must be; here's the kicker, "Uniformly Professional".
Grooming is part of that “uniformity” sought by putting on a uniform, and quite frankly, dreads do not look neat, clean or professional . . . NOT opinion here, FACT.
So, I say if your religious beliefs clash with your job you should meet somewhere in the middle if possible; or find a new religion, or job . . . If your heritage is so important to show it physically with your dreads then you choose not to be employed by any agency that requires “uniformity” of it’s employees for whatever their reason.
They are not infringing on your rights of religious practice . . . you are choosing not to work for them.


Posted by: GetAClue | Sep 18, 2008 3:03:02 PM

"and quite frankly, dreads do not look neat, clean or professional . . . NOT opinion here, FACT."

Well, I have worn them in situations demanding business formal and MY EXPERIENCE, not opinion, is that I leave quite a striking impression. People are impressed when I can speak articulately and with authority in my areas of expertise. They remember "the guy with the funny hair who knew what he was doing/saying." The only fact here, is people's Read: employers's attitudes about hairstyles and their impact on the workplace are personal opinions. If it were, in fact, a fact, the negative impact on the workplace environment would be clearly demonstrable.
In most cases, the employer has NO IDEA what, if any, affect an employee's hairstyle on their business's bottom line and would be hard pressed to show "undue hardship" under the law.

Posted by: Jelly | Dec 22, 2008 5:19:47 PM

Post a comment