A Heathen Claims Viking-Like Beards Should Be Protected Under Title VII

A security guard who was fired for refusing to shave his beard has filed a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC. His religion? He is a Norse Pagan—aka a Heathen.

Brian Whitsel, fired for his Heathen beard. Source: Dayton Daily News

Brian Whitsel worked for Premier Health for 12 years.

Mr. Whitsel, according to a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Cincinnati office, is a Norse Pagan (also known as a Heathen) who was fired from his job in July for refusing to shave his beard in compliance with his employer’s new grooming policy.

According to Dayton Daily News:

Whitsel said his beard is an important part of his identity as a Norse pagan and did not feel his beliefs were respected when he explained this and sought a religious exemption.

“I felt like they kind of mocked me,” he said.

“Wearing a beard is a central tenet of Mr. Whitsel’s faith in keeping with the Old Norse ways. This reality has been recognized by other employers, including the federal government,” according to a statement from his attorney.

“In most instances,” according to the EEOC’s website, “employers are required by federal law to make exceptions to their usual rules or preferences to permit applicants and employees to observe religious dress and grooming practices.”

Examples of religious dress and grooming practices include wearing religious clothing or articles (e.g., a Muslim hijab (headscarf), a Sikh turban, or a Christian cross); observing a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (e.g., a Muslim, Pentecostal Christian, or Orthodox Jewish woman’s practice of not wearing pants or short skirts), or adhering to shaving or hair length observances (e.g., Sikh uncut hair and beard, Rastafarian dreadlocks, or Jewish peyes (sidelocks)).

If the Amish, Mormons, Muslims, Sikhs and others are entitled to wear their beards in the workplace, shouldn’t Heathens be as well?

That will likely be up to the EEOC and courts to determine.

Related:
Essential Asatru: Walking the Path of Norse Paganism
How to Grow a Beard Like a Viking

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