Live: Day 2 of Public Impeachment Hearings

Listen on WHYY-FM, watch on WHYY-TV or stream online.

U.S. sues Philly school district over beard policy

 (<a href=Photo via ShutterStock) " title="ssbarberx1200" width="640" height="360"/>

(Photo via ShutterStock)

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against the Philadelphia School District over a grooming policy it says violates employees’ religious freedom.

The agency filed the Title VII challenge on behalf of a Muslim school police officer who was asked to trim his beard.

The Philadelphia district implemented a grooming policy for school safety officers in 2010 limiting beards to a quarter inch. The lawsuit says that Siddiq Abu-Bakr, who had been working for the district for two decades, told his supervisor that cutting his beard would violate his religious beliefs.  

Abu-Bakr initially filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the suit.

The Justice Department alleges the district discriminated against Abu-Bakr by reprimanding him. 

“Individuals should not have to choose between maintaining their jobs and practicing their faith when accommodations can be reasonably made,” said Jocelyn Samuels of the DOJ.

The lawsuit alleges that other employees have been forced to cut their beards in violation of their religious beliefs.

A school district representative said Thursday the district has not received a copy of the suit and could not comment.

Abu-Bakr still works for the district and still has not trimmed his beard.

The EEOC issued new reference guides today for employers and employees on religious garb in the workplace.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.