Fishel Litzman, an Orthodox police recruit, has filed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department, the City of New York and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly after he was allegedly discharged for refusing to trim his beard.
The 38 year-old Lubavitch Chassid from Monsey N.Y., entered the Police Academy in January and four days later was ordered by the NYPD to trim his beard. He refused on religious grounds.
"I always wanted to be a policeman," Litzman told the New York Daily News. "I wrote to the department that there is no reason that my faith in God and desire to enlist in the police do not go hand in hand."
According to New York City police regulations, religious recruits can only have one millimeter of facial hair. However, Lewin & Lewin, LLP, the law firm representing Litzman, said the incident constituted religious discrimination.
“Although Mr. Litzman advised the NYPD at the outset of the application process that his religious observance forbade the trimming of his beard, the NYPD swore him in as a Probationary Police Officer and caused him to resign the job he previously held as a paramedic. Since the NYPD permits police officers to grow beards after they graduate from the Police Academy, there is no legitimate governmental purpose in directing him to trim his beard to a length that does not exceed one millimeter while he is in the Police Academy,” the law firm said in a statement.
NYPD chief spokesman Paul Browne said that the “police made a move toward believers and let beards be grown to one millimeter in length, and this was explained to him when he joined the police."
Litzman’s attorney said his client would forgo damages if he is reinstated.