Lawsuit: FDNY Facial Hair Rule Discriminates

Aug. 20, 2018
Four African-American firefighters have sued the FDNY over a facial hair policy they say discriminates against black men with a skin condition.

A group of black firefighters has filed a lawsuit against the FDNY that claims the department's facial hair policy discriminates against black men who have a skin condition and cannot be completely clean-shaven.

amNewYork reports that the lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court against the City of New York, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, the FDNY and 10 other unnamed defendants, according to the plaintiffs’ Manhattan attorney, Aymen Aboushi.

FDNY firefighters Salik Bey, Terrel Joseph, Steven Seymour and Clyde Phillips claim they suffer from pseudofolliculitis barbae, which means they cannot shave with a razor without risking "significant pain, severe bumps, scarring, and deformities on the skin," the lawsuit states.

They trimmed their hair to stubble and had passed oxygen mask fit tests.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's website states that an "employer shall not permit respirators with tight-fitting facepieces to be worn by employees who have … facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with valve function."

The firefighters had previously been given a medical exemption but were told in May that there were no exceptions and they had to comply with the policy. They were placed on light duty so they could "think" about their stance and threatened with termination.

The firefighters are seeking the right to wear facial hair as well as unspecified damages.

The FDNY declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

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