Beldock Levine and Hoffman attorneys successfully obtained a preliminary injunction order against the New York City Fire Department today for threatening to suspend without pay and ultimately terminate a Muslim radio dispatcher for refusing to shave his beard, which he wears because of his Muslim faith.
Mr. Lewis began with the FDNY as an EMT in 2006, where he responded to emergencies and rendered medical assistance throughout the City. After an on-the-job accident rendered him permanently disabled in 2008, Mr. Lewis became a radio dispatcher, helping coordinate emergency responses to medical emergencies. He converted to Islam in 2012 and has worn a beard for the past five years. After twice being relieved of duty for refusing to shave his beard. Mr. Lewis was told to shave his beard by August 15, 2017 at 10am, or face unpaid suspension and, ultimately termination. Mr. Lewis refused to defy his religion and sought the Court’s assistance in stopping the FDNY’s discriminatory actions.
The Court today "enter[ed] a preliminary injunction in this case enjoining defendants, defendants' agents, officers, servants, employees,and attorneys, as well as any persons who are in active concert or participation with defendants or defendants' agents, officers, servants, employees, and attorneys, from taking any further employment action against Mr. Lewis by reason, in whole or in part, of his refusal to shave his beard to a length shorter than 2 inches or his inability to pass a mask-fitting test."
Mr. Lewis is relieved that his job, for now, is safe: “I’m just happy that I remain employed with the FDNY, the agency that I have called home for nearly 11 years. The fight is not yet over, as I remain on restricted duty and am not able to return to my role as a radio dispatcher.”
Partner Jonathan C. Moore stated: “The FDNY has maintained an antiquated policy with respect to grooming that restricts the employment of anyone who wears a beard based on a sincerely held religious belief, even in positions where having a beard of any length would in no way compromise the ability of that employee to fully perform his job.” Luna Droubi, another attorney at the firm, stated: “Mr. Lewis has been a devoted employee at the FDNY and has asked only to express his religious beliefs in a manner that has no effect whatsoever on his work as a radio dispatcher. The Court order is just one step in the direction of proper integration, allowing the FDNY to be as diverse as the City it serves.”
Jonathan C. Moore