What do you get when you cross an ordained minister with a desire to be a make-up artist? The answer is a lawsuit. This one you have to hear.
Wants to apply make-up but not wear make-up
According to the Detroit Press ordained minister Barry Jones also worked as a licensed esthetician. The article said that, in addition to being a minister he also owned his own beauty salon. He recently aspired to become a celebrity makeup artist, which is what led him to get a job with M.A.C. Cosmetics. It was during the training with M.A.C. that the trouble started. The company required all the trainees to wear the make-up they were applying, as the company said they should all know what it feels like so they can consult on the make-up.
Jones refused to do so, saying that his religion forbade him to look like a woman and doing so would compromise his position in the church. He quoted scripture, Deuteronomy 22:5: “A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD your God.” As a result of this dispute with the make-up company Jones feels he was “blackballed” from getting make-up jobs. So he sued.
Claimed religious discrimination
Mr. Jones claimed that he as discriminated against on the basis of a religious belief. He filed initially with the EEOC, which issued him a “right to sue” letter. So Jones filed suit in federal court. His attorney provides us with a valuable lesson about religious discrimination. Attorney Shereef Akeel said “When you have a religious belief, as long as it’s sincerely held, you don’t’ have to question whether it’s right or wrong. It’s whether that person possessed a sincerely held belief.”
Those are important words to remember when you are dealing with claims of religious belief. If the individual making the claim is sincere in the belief it is not up to you to decide whether their religion is right or wrong. The question becomes the sincerity of the belief. What makes this difficult for HR is there is no real time limit on holding that belief. A life altering event can convert someone in short order. So the next time you are dealing with a religious claim tread carefully and seek legal advisement.