The department’s no-beard policy, as it is known, is at the center of a federal class-action lawsuit filed on Wednesday on behalf of a Muslim police officer who says he was suspended during the fasting month of Ramadan for refusing to shave his one-inch beard. The lawsuit, brought by Masood Syed, 32, aims to force the Police Department to change a policy that his lawyers say infringes on the rights of more than 100 officers seeking to exercise their religious freedoms without fear of discrimination or retaliation.
Officer Syed, a 10-year veteran assigned to the office that handles disciplinary proceedings against officers, was suspended without pay on Tuesday. At an emergency hearing on Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, Judge P. Kevin Castel ordered the department to continue paying Officer Syed until his next court date on July 8, when the court will decide whether he can return to work.
Officer Syed’s complaint cites a 2013 ruling in Federal District Court in favor of a Hasidic Jewish police officer who was fired during his probationary period for refusing to shave his beard. The officer, Fishel Litzman, was reinstated in 2014 and remains on the job.
The complaint also describes another 2013 case of Mohsin Aftab, a Muslim police officer who was suspended and ultimately agreed to leave the department after 10 years of service rather than shave his beard. Mr. Aftab, according to the complaint, has not been able to work in law enforcement since his departure, and his family has had to accept food stamps.