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    Pilot Travel Centers Sued for Company Policy

    Personal appearance policy considered violation of one man's religious principles, according to suit.

    NEW YORK -- Pilot Travel Centers ''personal appearance policy'' prohibits employee beards, however; the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission has sued the Knoxville, Tenn.-based chain of truckstops and convenience stores for management actions taken against former employee Rafael Segura in 2002, according to reports.

    Segura was employed in a maintenance position at a Pilot Travel Center in Cookeville, Tenn., and explained to the manager at the time that his Messianic Jewish beliefs meant that he insisted on keeping his beard, according to The Tennessean.

    That was fine with the manager, the federal suit states, but when the regional manager arrived at the site one day and saw an employee with a beard, he was not happy. The EEOC started an investigation into Segura's subsequent termination and has decided to pursue the case on his behalf in federal court ''because the defendant employer failed to reasonably accommodate his religious beliefs and discharged him.''

    Segura declined to comment for this article earlier this week, but an official with the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America explained that the faith, which consists of Jews who believe that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, does not mandate that its adherents be bearded.

    ''But we are part of the Jewish tradition,'' said the alliance's Ed Levin, from his Pennsylvania offices, ''and many of our people are from traditions that include the wearing of beards.''

    Meanwhile, the policy at Pilot Travel Centers dictates that its employees be clean-shaven. Neatly trimmed mustaches are permitted, however, said company spokeswoman Cynthia Moxley.

    "Pilot maintains that the complaint is inaccurate and fails to reflect the facts of the situation,'' the company said in a written statement. ''Pilot Travel Centers intends to file a legal response to the EEOC complaint in a timely manner that will fully outline Pilot's side of the case.''

    The also company says it strictly prohibits discrimination in the workplace.

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