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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc.

2005 WL 2090677 (2005)

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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc.

United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

2005 WL 2090677 (2005)

Facts

Edward Rangel (plaintiff) practiced Kemetecism, a religion with ancient-Egyptian roots, and during a religious ceremony, he received two wrist tattoos in Coptic-language script that translated to, “My Father Ra is Lord. I am the son who exists of his Father; I am the Father who exists of his son.” The tattoos represented Rangel’s servitude to Ra, the Egyptian sun god, and his commitment to his faith. Rangel believed that intentionally concealing his tattoos was a sin but that incidentally covering them (e.g., through wearing long-sleeves or gloves in cold weather) was not a sin. Rangel intentionally concealed his tattoos only during the month of Mesura to symbolize his grief and servitude to Ra. Rangel signed a uniform/appearance policy when he began working as a server for Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc. (Red Robin) (defendant). Although that policy stated that employees’ tattoos may not be visible, Rangel openly displayed his wrist tattoos for several months without issue until an assistant manager asked Rangel to cover them. Rangel claimed that the assistant manager allowed Rangel to continue working with his tattoos uncovered after Rangel explained their religious significance. A month later, however, Rangel went to a different Red Robin branch, and two managers told Rangel to cover his tattoos. According to one of the managers, Rangel explained why he believed that his faith prevented him from covering his tattoos. The managers suggested that Rangel cover his tattoos with wristbands or bracelets, which also violated the uniform/appearance policy, but Rangel refused and was escorted out. Rangel chose to leave a second shift at that second location rather than cover his tattoos, and Red Robin terminated him. Rangel and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (plaintiff) sued Red Robin for religious discrimination under Title VII. Red Robin moved for summary judgment, alleging that Rangel’s tattoo visibility was not a bona fide religious practice; rather, Rangel’s religious practice was “inconsistent and arbitrary” because he sometimes covered his tattoos.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Robart, J.)

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