A Philadelphia school district has been accused by the Department of Justice of discriminating against an employee who said he couldn’t trim his beard for religious reasons.
The lawsuit, filed by the Justice department, alleges the School District of Philadelphia instituted a grooming policy preventing school security officers from having beards more than a quarter of an inch long and discriminated against Siddiq Abu-Bakr and others by failing to accommodate their religious beliefs.
Abu-Bakr, a longtime school police officer, is a member of the Islamic faith, which requires him to let his beard grow, the lawsuit says. He has kept his beard, which is longer than a quarter of an inch, uncut for the 27 years he has worked for the school district, and there’s no evidence it has interfered with his job performance, the lawsuit says.
When Abu-Bakr told his supervisor he couldn’t comply with the district’s grooming policy for religious reasons he was given a written reprimand for violating it, the complaint says.
The Department of Justice said the school district failed to consider Abu-Bakr’s request for reasonable accommodation and then denied it without showing that it would cause undue hardship.
Through the lawsuit, the department is seeking to have the school district implement new grooming policies that would prevent employees from being discriminated against based on religion.
Monetary damages for Abu-Bakr and others are also being sought.
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