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ADL Welcomes Massachusetts Court Decision Protecting an Employee's Religious Freedom

Boston, MA, December 9, 2008 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) welcomed the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Bobby T. Brown v. F.L. Roberts & Co. Inc. The Court overturned a Superior Court decision which allowed customer preference to override the religious freedom of an employee who refused to shave his beard because of a sincerely held religious belief.

Robert Trestan, ADL's Eastern States Civil Rights Counsel said in a statement:

It is reassuring that the Court recognized that in a religiously diverse society 'customer preference' and public image are not sufficient to override the freedom to express and observe one's faith.

The decision puts employers on notice that they may not exclude members of minority faiths, racial or ethnic groups from the workplace or exclude Kippah wearing Jews, cross wearing Christians and Hajib-wearing Muslims from the workplace simply by using the subjective amorphous concept of customer preference as a justification. The decision ensures that Massachusetts employers discuss religious accommodation with their employees.

The Plaintiff, a practicing Rastafarian who in accordance with his religion, does not shave or cut his hair, was barred from customer contact after his employer was advised by a marketing consultant that businesses with clean shaven employees were more successful than those without. ADL filed a brief at the Supreme Judicial Court arguing that such deference to customer preference would undercut the already slim protections for religious employees to dress as their religion requires them.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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