Manufacturing Company Revoked Job Offer and Refused to Accommodate Applicant Whose Religious Beliefs Prohibited Hair from Being Cut From His Scalp, Agency Says
HOUSTON -- U.S. Steel Tubular Products, Inc., a subsidiary of U.S. Steel Corporation, unlawfully revoked a worker's job offer because of his religion and in retaliation for insisting that his religious practices be accommodated, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, in December 2011, U.S. Steel interviewed Stephen Fasuyi and made an oral employment offer for a utility technician position at a facility in Houston. The offer was contingent upon Fasuyi's successful completion of a pre-employment drug test. Fasuyi belongs to the Nazirite sect of the Hebrew Israelite faith, and he sincerely believes that the Old Testament forbids him from cutting hair from his scalp. During a hair follicle drug test at a clinic the same day he received a job offer, he declined to have a lock of his hair cut starting at the scalp. A nurse had advised him that the hair for testing could come from his head or beard, and Fasuyi offered to -- and did -- pull hair from his beard, and offered to cut a lock of his hair starting in the middle. Fasuyi was nevertheless instructed to go home without the examination being completed.
The following day, Fasuyi sent an e-mail to an employee services supervisor at U.S. Steel, in which Fasuyi reiterated his willingness to undergo the hair follicle test, as long as it could be completed without cutting hair from his scalp. Although U.S. Steel has conceded that hair "samples may be taken from the subject's beard, underarm or chest if sufficient quantity and length of the hair is available," its employee services supervisor denied Fasuyi the opportunity to re-test. Claiming that Fasuyi "has more hair than Solomon," the supervisor accused Fasuyi of having "created a negative scene" at the clinic, and he sent an e-mail to other U.S. Steel hiring officials stating, "[a]s discussed, Stephen Fayusi is not been [sic] considered for employment with the company." Fasuyi subsequently applied for other vacancies at U.S. Steel, including another utility technician position for which he initially was scheduled for an interview, only to have the interview later canceled by the company.
The EEOC contends that Fasuyi's religious beliefs could and should have been accommodated during the pre-employment testing, and that U.S. Steel ultimately denied him employment because of his religion and in retaliation for his opposing what he believed to be religious discrimination.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination because of religion and prohibits retaliation. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (Civil Action No. 4:14cv-2747) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The federal agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting U.S Steel from engaging in any future religious discrimination and retaliation. The EEOC is also seeking back pay on behalf of Fasuyi and compensatory and punitive damages and other relief on his behalf, including rightful-place instatement to a suitable position at U.S. Steel.
"When a worker's sincerely held religious beliefs can be accommodated without imposing an undue burden on an employer -- as in this case -- the employer cannot discriminate because of the worker's religious beliefs and practices," said EEOC Houston District Director R.J. Ruff, Jr.
EEOC Houston Regional Attorney Jim Sacher said, "This lawsuit will send a message to employers that the EEOC will vigorously enforce federal law by prosecuting companies which deny equal opportunity to religiously observant workers who seek to adhere to the tenets of their faith."
U.S. Steel Tubular Products, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation. According to their webpage, U.S. Steel's Tubular Processing Houston Operations "[o]ffer a variety of tubular processing services to our customers."
The Houston District Office of the EEOC oversees parts of East Texas and Southeast Texas and Louisiana.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov