The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed suit on behalf of a Muslim employee against the Philadelphia School District, alleging that the school district’s employee grooming policy discriminates against him on the basis of religion.  In 2010 the school district adopted a grooming policy which restricts the length of beards worn by school police officers and security to no longer than a quarter of an inch.  School police officer Siddiq Abu-Bakr claims that he is prevented from cutting his beard by his Islamic faith.

The DOJ’s suit states that Mr. Abu-Bakr was issued a written reprimand from the school district when he informed his supervisor that his religious beliefs prevented him from complying with the district’s grooming policy. The district’s reprimand cautioned the employee that a continued violation of the rule concerning beard length would result in further disciplinary action.

The suit contends that even though Abu-Bakr provided school officials with a letter from his iman that confirmed the religious probation against trimming his beard, the district responded that his request for an exception was outweighed by “the integrity of the policy.” The DOJ charged that the school district failed to consider Abu-Bakr’s request for a reasonable accommodation to the grooming policy, instead denying his request without first showing that complying with his request would cause the district undue hardship.