American Muslim sues employer for firing over beard

A Seattle-area Muslim man is suing his former employer, claiming he was fired as a security guard for refusing to shave the beard he wears for religious reasons.

Abdulkadir Omar, 22, filed his federal lawsuit July 15 in Seattle against Sacramento-based American Patriot Security, seeking back pay and unspecified damages for emotional pain and loss of enjoyment of life, among other reasons. “Growing up in this country, where the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion, I was let down,” Omar said Thursday at a press conference.

According to the lawsuit, Omar was hired by a local manager of the security company in May 2009 and earned $9 an hour guarding a FedEx warehouse in Kent, Wash. He said he started the same day he was hired, and was not told about the clean-shaven policy.

In November 2009, a supervisor from headquarters told him he had to shave his beard because of company policy. Omar responded that his beard is part of his religious beliefs and refused. He was suspended, and then fired the following spring, the lawsuit said.

A representative from American Patriot Security declined to answer questions.

Omar filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which found that he was wrongfully terminated and had the right to sue, according to a press release by the Council for American-Islamic Relations.

“There’s no policy that can go against the law of the land,” said Arsalan Bukhari, executive director of the Washington state chapter of CAIR. “Civil Rights Act trumps any (company) policy.” Bukhari said companies need to accommodate someone’s religious beliefs unless it’s an “undue burden.”

Associated Press, 4 August 2011

See also Seattle Times, 4 August 2011