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Muslim corrections officer keeps beard, gets fired, sues

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Abal Zaidi, a former corrections officer in Geneva, has sued the Kane County Sheriff’s Department, claiming he was fired for refusing to shave his beard.

Zaidi joined the department in July 2006 and received positive reviews. Four months later, Sheriff Pat Perez posted an employee bulletin requiring all officers to be cleanshaven.

Zaidi refused, saying his beard was an expression of his Muslim faith. Perez asked him to produce documentation to support his claim. But Zaidi claims before he could comply, he was asked to resign or face termination for poor performance. That’s when he decided to sue.

Perez said he had merely reinstituted an existing facial hair policy that had lapsed under a prior administration. Before posting it, Perez said he had asked officers and members of the public whether beards on sheriff’s department officers looked professional. The consensus was no.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago is representing Zaidi.

In July 2008, the EEOC noted that employers must “reasonably accommodate employee’s religious practices where the accommodation does not impose undue hardship.”

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