Feds Sue Philly Schools Over Beard Limits

Say school rules fail to accommodate employee's Muslim faith.

NBC News reports that federal officials have filed suit against the Philadelphia School District over its rules that limits employee beards to a quarter-inch in length.

The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, claims that the school district discriminated against a school police officer by instituting a policy in October of 2010 that prevented school officers from having beards longer than one-quarter inch. Abu-Bakr, a school police officer since 1987, told district officials that the rule conflicted with his Islamic faith, which requires him to not cut his beard. Abu-Bakr says he has had an untrimmed beard longer than one-quarter inch for the 27 years he has worked with the district.

The complaint accuses the district of failing to consider Abu-Bakr’s request for “reasonable accommodation” to its grooming policy.

“Individuals should not have to choose between maintaining their jobs and practicing their faith when accommodations can be reasonably made,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Jocelyn Samuels. “Federal law requires all employers, even those with grooming and uniform policies, to reasonably accommodate the religious observances and practices of their employees.”

The lawsuit seeks a change in district rules, as well as monetary damages to Abu-Bakr.