After Beldock Levine and Hoffman attorneys won a temporary restraining order last week to stop the New York City Police Department from suspending a Muslim officer without pay for refusing to shave his beard, the NYPD today reinstated Officer Masood Syed and agreed to review its “no beard” policy. Mr. Syed, who has worn a beard for the past decade, first as an officer and now as a law clerk with the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Trials, was suspended on June 21 after he refused to shave his one-inch beard, which he wears for religious reasons.
On June 22, BLH lawyers Joshua S. Moskovitz and Luna Droubi filed a class action complaint in Manhattan federal court challenging Mr. Syed’s suspension and the NYPD’s “no beard” policy. The complaint charges that the policy, and the NYPD’s irregular enforcement of the policy, is unconstitutional. Following an emergency hearing later that day, United States District Judge P. Kevin Castel ordered the NYPD not to alter Mr. Syed’s compensation or benefits before the court could hold a full preliminary injunction hearing on July 8.
Today, Mr. Moskovitz and Ms. Droubi announce that the NYPD has agreed to immediately reinstate Mr. Syed and conduct a comprehensive review of its religious accommodation policy with respect to beards. Mr. Syed will be allowed to keep his beard without the threat of discipline or adverse action while a 120-day review takes place.
“I’m excited to be back at work,” Mr. Syed said, adding, “it seems like the Department has taken the crucial first step in addressing an important and growing concern of officers of many different faiths. I am hopeful that the Department’s new policy will in fact allow myself and other officers to wear our beards at a reasonable length without the fear of retaliation or hostility.”
“This lawsuit forced the NYPD to correct its course – which it has started to do by reinstating Mr. Syed and agreeing to review its appearance policy,” said Mr. Moskovitz. “We expect the NYPD will ultimately adopt new policies, particularly with regard to accommodations for officers like Mr. Syed, who wear a beard as a part of their faith.”
“Mr. Syed was asked to make an impossible choice: exercising his sincerely held religious beliefs or losing the job he loves. He no longer has to make that choice,” said Ms. Droubi, adding, “We hope that the NYPD’s review is inclusive rather than exclusive, providing an open dialogue and an exchange of ideas. The new policy should accurately reflect the needs and beliefs of all of its officers,”
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” Mr. Moskovitz cautioned. “We need to find the appropriate balance between the NYPD’s legitimate law enforcement needs and the important religious beliefs of its many officers.” Mr. Moskovitz added: “What makes New York City unique are the many cultures and religions represented here. By embracing those differences and having officers of all walks of life in positions at every level of the department, the NYPD will be a better and more effective police department.”
Jonathan C. Moore
New York Times