State Department forced Muslim security guard to shave beard, lawsuit claims

by | May 4, 2023 | Religion

(RNS) — When Devin Brooks reported for training in West Virginia early last year for his new security guard gig at the U.S. Department of State, he was pulled aside and told his beard violated the agency’s facial hair policy.The news was a shock to Brooks, who said he had been assured in November 2021 by a third-party recruiter that the job would allow him to maintain a fist-length beard, as required by his Islamic faith.
A lawsuit filed Wednesday (May 3) by the Council on American-Islamic Relations against Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the State Department claims Brooks was forced to shave his beard to keep his job and afterward was “denied permission to maintain a beard longer than ½ inch.” Rather than accommodate Brooks’ beliefs, the agency removed him from active duty and later placed him on administrative leave, then unpaid leave, according to the lawsuit.
CAIR alleges the Department of State’s refusal to provide religious accommodation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of religion, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents the government from substantially burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. The lawsuit requests payment for economic damages and emotional harm, along with other damages and fees.
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