Man says he was fired for refusing to cut hair he keeps long for religious reasons

Man says he was fired for refusing to cut hair

ST. LOUIS (KMOV/CNN) – A Missouri man doesn’t cut his hair for religious reasons. He said his employer fired him because of it, weeks after he started working.

Donzell Lenard enjoyed working for about a month at Energy Petroleum.

"I fueled trains, trucks, cranes, tractors, whatever needed gas," he said.

Lenard said he made good money. But what got him cut – according to his hiring manager, Lenard said – was his hair.

"He said that if I couldn't cut my hair, then I had to go," he said.

Lenard said his hairstyle supports his Hebrew Israelite faith. Followers believe they are descendants of a lost tribe of Israel, and it’s tradition to not cut hair or beards.

He said on day one at Energy Petroleum, he had his dreads down.

"Why wasn't it brought to me then?” Lenard said. “But then, all of a sudden last week, you say it was overlooked. How could you overlook that? How do you overlook that I have long hair?"

Lenard showed KMOV company documents – numbered by his former company – outlining rules, which he said he got on his first day.

Then he showed KMOV documents – not numbered – detailing grooming rules, which he said he got just a few weeks ago.

"Their rule should have been put out there. It should not have been overlooked. You told me about every other rule," Lenard said.

Energy Petroleum could not be reached for comment.

So, was Lenard’s firing legal?

"Title VII of federal law requires that they at least make the effort to see whether they can accommodate the employee," said Brian Pezza, an employment attorney.

“It’s not a winning case for an employer to decide that they are going to challenge an employee’s actual religious beliefs,” Pezza said. “You don’t want to go getting into how often people go to church or whether they just were converted or how they’ve gotten to those beliefs.”

Lenard said he would like his job back, but he’s not optimistic that will happen.

Copyright 2019 KMOV via CNN. All rights reserved.