Judge Rules NYPD Discriminated Against Hasidic Recruit In Trim Beard Case
New York, NY - Judge Rules NYPD Discriminated Against Hasidic Recruit In Trim Beard Case
Federal courtâ€™s ruling may clear the way for the reinstatement of the Police Academy cadet from Monsey, who was fired over the length of his facial hair.
A rookie Hasidic cop fired by the NYPD for refusing to trim his beard was the victim of religious discrimination, a federal judge said Friday.
The decision appears to pave the way for Fishel Litzmanâ€™s reinstatement.
â€śI want people to know that you can follow your dreams and never have to compromise your religion,â€ť Litzman, 39, told the Daily News outside his home in Monsey. â€śThatâ€™s what makes this county so great.â€ť
Litzman was fired in June 2012, a month shy of graduating from the Police Academy. He said he got booted because he refused to adhere to department standards limiting beards to no more than 1 millimeter in length.
His lawyer, Nathan Lewin, filed suit on his behalf, arguing that the city came up with an â€śafter-the-fact rationalizationâ€ť by saying facial hair would prevent him wearing a gas mask with a proper fit. The city at the time said Litzman would put himself and others at risk if he needed to wear the mask in an emergency.
But Federal Judge Harold Baer Friday upheld Litzmanâ€™s constitutional claim, criticized police and told his attorney to submit within 10 days a â€śproposed order.â€ť
â€śWeâ€™re going to ask that he be reinstated,â€ť said Lewin, a legal heavyweight who has fought and won beard battles on behalf of observant Jews with the Army and Air Force. â€śWe hope this is the beginning of the end of the (NYPDâ€™s) refusal to grant full religious accommodations to applicants who may not, for religious reasons, trim their beards.â€ť
The NYPD said itâ€™s reviewing Baerâ€™s decision. A spokeswoman for the Law Department said, â€śWe respectfully disagree with the court and are considering our options.â€ť
Baer, in his decision, agreed that the NYPD would suffer an â€śundue hardshipâ€ť if every officer wasnâ€™t capable of wearing a gas mask that seals tightly against the face, without facial hair interference. But he also noted that the NYPD could not provide documentation that the 1-millimeter restriction is an official rule. The NYPD failed to enforce the restriction against cops not granted an exemption, such as undercover officers, he added.
Litzman, a father of five, who has been working as a paramedic since getting canned, says his goal since that day has remained the same.
â€śThe primary objective was always to get back into the academy and do what I always dreamed of doing,â€ť he said.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/hasidic-nypd-recruit-victim-bias-judge-article-1.1518890#ixzz2ksKSxAI2