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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against a supermarket chain that allegedly refused to hire a job applicant who would not cut his dreadlocks for religious reasons.
The agency said in a statement distributed Wednesday, but dated last Tuesday, that Bowling Green, Kentucky-based Houchens Food Group Inc., which according to its website operates 400 stores in 15 states, refused to hire Matthew Barnett.
The EEOC said when he applied for a job as an assistant manager at a supermarket, Mr. Barnett was informed he would need to cut his dreadlocks, to which he replied he wears his dreadlocks because of his religious beliefs and would not do so. The interview “immediately concluded” and the supermarket refused to hire him, the EEOC said in its statement.
The company was charged with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Kentucky.
An attorney for Houchens did not respond to a request for comment.
The EEOC said in September it filed suit against emergency transport companies for discriminating and retaliating against applicants and employee first responders who wear beards. That litigation is ongoing.