Man sues Safeway, saying ponytail cost him his job

Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Kenai Peninsula man who says his ponytail cost him his job at a Safeway Oaken Keg liquor store has sued the company.

Soldotna resident Frank Miller, 57, is an Athabascan Indian with a ponytail that reaches to the middle of his back. Miller brushes and washes his hair daily and trims it every two weeks.

Miller had worked at the Oaken Keg store for two years when a Safeway manager told him in 1999 to cut his hair above his shoulders, according to the court filing. Miller refused.

When Safeway bought the Oaken Keg chain as part of its 1999 takeover of Carr Gottstein Foods Co., Miller was not offered a job, he said.

Safeway's hair code requires men's hair be collar length and prohibits goatees and beards. Company spokeswoman Cherie Myers declined to comment about the Miller case.

Miller's attorney, John Havelock, said the policy violates Miller's freedom of speech, privacy, religious freedom and amounts to discrimination against Alaska Natives.

Havelock said that Safeway's policy is unreasonable. As a liquor store clerk, the hair poses no health or safety risk, he said.

''When people buy a bottle of booze they don't care what the clerk's hair looks like,'' Havelock said. ''I've been around Alaska long enough to know that.''

The lawsuit was filed in Alaska Superior Court in Kenai.

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