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Can I Fire Employee for Not Shaving?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Can you base your decision to fire an employee on his beard? American Patriot Security, a California-based security company, did just that.

Now, they are being sued.

Washington State resident Abdulkadir Omar, 22, started working at the security company in 2009. Omar says that at the time he was hired nobody said that he had to shave his beard, reports the Seattle Times.

Omar, a Muslim, keeps his beard for religious reasons. In his lawsuit, he says that several months after he started working for the security company he was told he had to shave his beard. Omar told his supervisor that keeping his facial hair as is was part of his religious beliefs, according to the Seattle Times.

Omar says he was fired despite his reiteration to the manager that his facial hair was part of his religious beliefs, and his lawsuit was seeking damages from lost wages as well as emotional damages, the Seattle Times reports.

Most of the time, employers can have policies for employees to follow. But, when it comes to policies like the grooming policy that American Patriot Security has, it's likely that they should have accommodated Omar's facial hair because it is part of his religious practice.

Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964 makes it so that employers need to reasonably accommodate the religious belief of an employee unless doing so would be an undue hardship on the employer.

Would growing a beard really be an undue hardship?

Whether or not you can fire an employee for a beard is wholly dependent on the situation, and in American Patriot Security's case, it seems probable that Omar will prevail on his suit if he can show that his beard was part of his religious beliefs.

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