Muslim Security Guard Files Suit Claiming He Was Fired for Wearing a Beard
And of course, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is involved. Via Seattle Weekly: Abdulkadir Omar wears a beard for religious reasons. The security firm that hired him in the spring of 2009–a California-based outfit that broadcasts its conservative leanings with the name American Patriot Security (nice how they assume that just because of their name)–didn’t seem to have a problem with that. But then it did, as Omar plans to tell reporters today at a press conference organized by CAIR.
According to a suit he filed last month in the U.S. District Court for Western Washington, American Patriot informed Omar after about five months of work as a security guard that his beard violated the firm’s “grooming policy.”
Omar contacted the local office of CAIR, which wrote the company a letter explaining how his beard was an outgrowth of his religious beliefs. The letter failed to persuade American Patriot CEO Scott Jacobs, who told Omar that if he didn’t shave, he wouldn’t work, according to the suit. Omar refused, and that was the end of his career at American Patriot.
Perhaps Jacobs, who couldn’t be reached for comment this morning, was influenced by his law-enforcement background (again, another assumption by Seattle Weekly). According to his firm’s website, the American Patriot CEO spent 11 years as a deputy for the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
In fact, employers are obligated by state and federal anti-discrimination laws to make such accommodations, according to Omar’s suit. CAIR says Omar already has a ruling from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (no link provided) saying that he was wrongfully terminated. Now, Omar is hauling American Patriot into court for back wages he says he’s due and a reform of the company’s policies.
Federal anti-discrimination laws state the following:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
- The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) prohibits any employee who has authority to take certain personnel actions from discriminating for or against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion;
- Discriminatory practices of employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion;
- Denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion; and
- Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also practices that have the effect of discriminating against individuals because of their race, color, national origin, religion, or sex.
I’m no legal scholar but doesn’t this mean that an employer can’t discriminate a candidate based on the religion they choose to practice? American Patriot did hire him. But why must a private employer be forced to make exceptions for the mandates of the religion that you choose? Isn’t the private employer entitled to have company-wide standards? Washington State is an “at-will” employment state, meaning at-will employees may be terminated for any reason, so long as it is not illegal. It also means an employer can’t discriminate based on “personal characteristics” that are not job-related.
Characteristic is defined as “a distinguishing trait or quality”. As I understand it, a beard is not a “personal characteristic”. It’s not a “trait“- a personal character. A beard is a personal choice (not an inherent characteristic) to grow facial hair that Omar made to comply with his religion. If that is what he chooses above his employer’s company standards, then he should look elsewhere for a job.