A lawsuit was filed against the State Department of the US government for discriminating against a guard when he was allegedly forced to shave his beard to keep his job at the agency.
The case was filed on May 3rd by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of security guard Devin Brooks against the US State Department and State Secretary Anthony Blinken. The suit stated that the agency “denied permission to maintain a beard longer than ½ inch,” as required by Brook’s Islamic faith.
Today, we filed a lawsuit against the @StateDept on behalf of a Muslim security guard who was told he could not keep a fist-length beard, which he does for religious reasons, for "safety" reasons. Read our statement and watch the video below for more info.… pic.twitter.com/PKWgqprRog
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) May 4, 2023
Brooks also reported that he was shocked when the US State Department informed him that his fist-length beard violated the agency’s policy on facial hair since a third-party recruiter told him that the job would let him keep his beard.
According to the lawsuit, Brooks was removed from active duty before being placed on administrative and unpaid leave. CAIR claimed that their refusal to give religious accommodation violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, prohibiting discrimination on employment based on religion.
The lawsuit asks for payment for economic and emotional damages incurred by the incident and other fees.
“Nobody should be forced to choose between their faith and their job,” Hannah Mullen, a staff attorney for CAIR, said in a press release. “The Department of State could have easily accommodated Mr. Brooks. Bureaucracy and a lack of respect for religion are not defenses to Title VII and RFRA.”
The US State Department did not provide any comment on the pending litigation. However, in a letter dated April 18 last year quoting the lawsuit, a representative from the agency said the State Department couldn’t accommodate Brooks’s request to keep his beard due to safety concerns.
“We have these policies on beard length in place to protect the guards and to ensure that if engaged in a physical confrontation, they cannot be grabbed or pulled and used to manipulate a guard in such a way as to expose their weapons,” the letter said.
In response, lawyers from CAIR argued that their concerns don’t outweigh Brooks’s right to observe his Islamic faith. They also added that the State Department’s safety concerns seem insincere because Brooks was allowed to keep his fist-length beard during his tenure at the Department of Homeland Security.
“As a result of Defendants’ unlawful actions, Brooks has suffered a loss of earnings, wages, seniority, and benefits, a loss of earning capacity, a loss of future earnings, a loss of enjoyment of life, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress, and related damages,” the lawsuit stated. “Defendants acted with malice and reckless indifference to Brooks’s federally protected rights.”