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Court Declines to Uphold Domino’s No-Beard Policy

January 21, 1992 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to kill a lawsuit accusing Domino’s Pizza of discriminating against blacks with its rule that employees may not wear beards.

The court, without comment, declined to hear Domino’s appeal of a ruling that the policy discriminates against black men. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said many black males have a skin disorder that makes shaving difficult.

The appeals court reinstated a lawsuit by Langston Bradley, a black man who was fired as a pizza deliverer for refusing to shave.

The case now goes back to U.S. District Judge William G. Cambridge in Omaha, Neb., who in 1989 threw out Bradley’s suit. The judge must decide whether Domino’s has a legitimate business reason for its no-beard policy.

If none is shown, the company could be required to reinstate Bradley with back pay and permit beards for those who cannot shave for medical reasons.

Bradley, fired from a Domino’s franchise in Omaha in 1984, suffers from pseudofolliculitis barbae or PFB, a facial skin disorder. It is caused by sharp tips of recently shaved facial hair and produces inflammation, pain and scarring.

A dermatologist testified that 25 percent of black men have cases of PFB severe enough to cause shaving difficulty. White males rarely get PFB or other skin disorders that would interfere with shaving, the doctor said.

The trial judge rejected the suit, ruling Bradley failed to show Domino’s had systematically refused to hire or had fired black men with PFB for violating the no-beard policy.

But the appeals court disagreed, ruling there is statistical evidence the policy discriminates against blacks.

″The reason is self-evident: A discriminatory work policy might distort the job applicant pool by discouraging otherwise qualified workers from applying,″ the appeals panel said.

″The ... evidence makes clear that Domino’s strictly enforced no-beard policy has a discriminatory impact on black males,″ the panel said.

The case is Pizzaco of Nebraska vs. Bradley, 91-640.