A Muslim NYPD police officer who was suspended for wearing a beard was reinstated by the department on Friday.
Masood Syed was allowed back on the force a little more than a week after a judge said the NYPD had to reinstate the officer's pay and benefits. Syed sued the department after the department suspended him and escorted him from police headquarters on June 21 over the beard, which the officer said he wears for religious reasons.
“Given an ultimatum to choose between my faith and my career on that day was one of the most disquieting moments of my life, hopefully no other officer will be put in that situation again,” said Syed. “It appears the NYPD has taken this crucial step to address this policy, and I am looking forward to getting back to work.”
Syed said he has maintained a 1-inch beard for most of his 10-year career, only occasionally drawing critical comments.
He said he hoped his lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, would help over 100 police employees who find the religious exception to the department's no-beard policy insufficient because they say the length of the beard allowed is not reasonable.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified financial damages and a court order banning the NYPD from enforcing its beard policy until it provides reasonable religious accommodations.
City attorney Michael Fleming said the beard ban was necessary so gas masks would fit on officers faces. Besides for religious reasons, exceptions exist for undercover duties and medical conditions. Occupational Health and Safety Administration regulations require annual fit-testing and prohibit respirators for employees with facial hair.
The NYPD drew criticism from public advocate Letitia James, who wrote a letter to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton earlier this week about the issue.
"We do not stand for institutionalized religious discrimination in our City, and certainly not from the organization that is supposed to protect us. New York City cannot live up to its reputation as the epicenter of diversity if inclusion is not the law of the land," James said.