The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of a Muslim man who claims he lost his job as a jail detention officer over a fight to wear a beard.
Officials with the Arizona chapter of the ACLU filed the suit May 29 in U.S District Court in Phoenix.
Sinan Fazlovic claims Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office forced him to shave his facial hair in order to keep his job despite repeated pleas for religious accommodation.
Fazlovic, 34, alleges in the suit that when he was hired the sheriff’s office had no problem with his beard, which he wore in accordance with religious tenets.
But it became a problem when he met personally with Arpaio while he was in the training academy in 2005.
Fazlovic’s superiors made him shave the beard under orders from Arpaio and then later upheld the decision by saying he would need to be clean shaven for a self-contained breathing apparatus to fit snugly on his face, the suit alleges.
Detention officers sometimes have to wear the devices in emergency situations.
Chief of Custody Gerard Sheridan said the sheriff’s office was complying with workplace health laws governing face masks authorized for use in jail emergencies.
Fazlovic alleges he sought a special accommodation for which he was denied and told he would need to change jobs in order to wear a beard.
He grew his beard anyway and over the next year he sought other jobs in the sheriff’s office.
Fazlovic sought to keep the same pay as a detention officer to no avail and he filed grievances before being fired last July, the suit claims.