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Missouri man claims he was fired when he refused to cut his hair for religious reasons

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis man claims he was fired from his job when he refused to cut his hair for religious reasons.

Donzell Lenard said he enjoyed working for Energy Petroleum, a job he held for a month. He said he made good money.

“I fueled trains, trucks, cranes, tractors or whatever needs gas,” said Lenard.

Lenard told KMOV he was fired when his hiring manager told him that his hair was too long.

“He said if I couldn’t cut my hair, I can’t work,” said Lenard.

Lenard said his hairstyle supports his Hebrew Israelite faith. Its followers believe they are descendants of a lost tribe of Israel and its tradition to not cut hair or beards.

Donzell Lenard

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

“Why wasn’t it brought to me then? Then, all of a sudden you say it was overlooked. How could you overlook that? How do you overlook that I have long hair?” Lenard asked.

Lenard showed News 4 documents from his company that outline their rules. He said he got those on the first day of his job but that he received a document that governed grooming a few weeks ago.

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

News 4 reached out several times to Petroleum Energy for comment and are waiting to hear back.

Attorney Brian Pezza with Lewis Rice LLC said federal law requires an employer has to make an effort to see if they can accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs.

“It is not a winning case for an employer to decide they are going to challenge an employee’s actual religious beliefs,” said Pezza. “You don’t want to get into how often they go to church, whether they were just converted or how to they got to the belief.”

Lenard told KMOV he wants his job back but said he’s not optimistic that will happen.

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