The Mercury

Your beard or your job: guard ‘faces discrimina­tion’ over his beliefs


A MEMBER of the Nazareth Baptist Church, who wears a beard for religious reasons, has been threatened with a disciplina­ry hearing if he refuses to cut his hair.

Sipho Gcabashe, an alarm response officer for Fidelity ADT in Glenwood, has been told by his employer to trim his beard or face the consequenc­es.

Gcabashe, who has refused the company’s order, said he was served with a letter demanding that he shave his beard before the end of August. He said that in his employment contract there was nothing saying he must shave his hair or beard, adding that his religion was everything to him.

“If it wasn’t for my religion I would be dead by now as the person who replaced me when I was sent home on Thursday was shot and is in ICU,” said Gcabashe.

He accused the company of discrimina­ting against his religion.

“About 40% of employees at Fidelity are Nazareth, but they chose only me to shave the beard,” he said.

After Gcabashe refused to do so, he was served with a notice to attend a disciplina­ry inquiry.

“I had to choose between my bread and butter and my religion, which is not fair,” he said, adding that he was expecting to be fired.

Fidelity ADT’s district manager for KwaZulu-Natal Vaughan Pillay said they were aware of the case where an employee had been asked to comply with the company policy in terms of his appearance when reporting for duty.

“We have a zero tolerance for discrimina­tion and each case is handled individual­ly based on the employee and company’s specific needs and requiremen­ts,” said Pillay.

He said they respected the employee’s religious beliefs and were happy for him to keep his hair and his beard, but expected it to be kept neat and tidy in accordance with the company’s dress code.

“Our HR department and senior management team are currently working with the respective parties towards an appropriat­e resolution,” Pillay said.

The chairperso­n of the Nazareth Judicial Council, Willington Myeni, confirmed that they received a complaint from the employee.

He said the council had reported the matter to the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communitie­s.

According to Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha: “The Constituti­on guarantees a person can practise his/her faith or culture without any restrictio­n.”

SA Humans Right Commission spokespers­on Gushwell Brooks said the commission would have to consider whether the work entailed the removal of a beard for safety and/or health reasons.

“The removal of the beard seems to violate the right of equality on the basis of religion and the right to freedom of religion, belief, and opinion, as the worker has a beard for religious reasons and is facing dismissal as a result,” said Brooks.

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