The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the School District of Philadelphia, claiming a rule regulating the length of employees’ beards constitutes religious discrimination.
According to the suit filed Wednesday, the district in October 2010 instituted a new grooming policy preventing school police officers and security guards from having beards longer than a quarter of an inch.
School police officer Siddiq Abu-Bakr maintained an untrimmed beard for the 27 years he worked at the district, the suit states. Abu-Bakr is a member of the Islamic faith, which he says requires that he not cut his beard.
When Abu-Bakr notified his supervisor his religious beliefs precluded him from complying with the new policy, he was allegedly issued a written reprimand cautioning that continued violation of the rule would result in “further disciplinary action.”