masked firefighter holding fire ax
Is requiring safety workers to keep their face shaved discriminatory to Jews and Muslims?

A group of Muslim and Jewish firefighters in Washington D.C. is going to court, alleging religious discrimination over a safety policy prohibiting facial hair.

The men claim that because they wear facial hair in accordance with their faith, they were denied career opportunities and ended up with pay cuts. 

They’re asking a D.C. judge to hold the city in contempt over their facial hair policy, arguing that not only is it a blatant violation of their religious freedom.

Should religious workers in dangerous fields who might have to wear masks be forced to shave?

Face Off

The policy in question dates back to 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. D.C.’s fire and EMS departments instituted a rule prohibiting facial hair “that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face."

Representatives from those departments say that any obstruction between the N-95 masks or respirators and the face prevents the mask from creating a proper seal, and that having significant facial hair could thus pose a serious medical risk to the safety of firefighters.

But the four men who filed the lawsuit – Steven Chasin, Calvert Potter, Jasper Sterling, and Hassan Umran – say they must wear facial hair “in accordance with the tenets of their Muslim or Jewish faith.”

When the policy was introduced, the men pointed out to supervisors that their faith prohibits shaving their faces.

As a result, they allege, they were shuffled between departments and put in logistical positions. The men say this resulted in a significant loss of career opportunities and take-home pay.

After lawyers got involved and sent a strongly worded letter to the city, three of the men were reinstated to field duty in late 2021, and one took an administrative position (by choice) – but they say the damage was done.

Close Shave

Although the policy was implemented in 2020 and is only now being litigated, the men argue this matter was actually resolved 15 years ago.

In 2007, a U.S. district judge ruled against a similar grooming mandate, pointing out that "evidence shows that a beard has never interfered with the ability of a FEMS worker to do his duty" outside of a “catastrophic scenario.”

This isn’t the first time that religious facial hair requirements and worker safety policies have butted heads.

The U.S. military is known for strict enforcement of a clean-cut physical appearance for soldiers. However, it recently gave its blessing to both a pagan and a Christian soldier to wear beards in accordance with their faith. The military has also allowed Muslims and Sikhs to wear facial hair since 2017. 

The attorneys for the four firefighters say their clients are victims of an unjust and discriminatory policy and are pursuing compensatory damages.

The city argues the beard policy was for the workers’ own safety. But the firefighters insist the policy violated their religious freedom and put them in an impossible position of choosing between their faith and their career.

Where do you stand?

72 comments

  1. Terry G Edwards's Avatar Terry G Edwards

    I can't speak for anyone but myself. I spent many years in the military. I took special training dealing with the military's chemical and biological protection equipment. I have worked in the pest control industry, construction industry, farming industry, and petroleum/gas industries. There are many places and situations that require an OSHA approved respirator to be worn by any individual in the area regardless of their actual participation in the activity.

    This is a federal government regulation that effects all institutions and insurance companies. It's not something a company can just bypass without violating the law. Any individual who wishes to work with these companies must pass a drug test, a physical, and be screened and fitted for a respirator. They must be physically capable of wearing a respirator without any health issues. The respirator must make a complete seal around the face and neck area in order to protect the individual from any vapors or contaminates from seeping into the mask. Unfortunately, facial hair will prevent this from happening.

    It's not a question of religion, it's a simple fact of life or death. The only other option is to fully suit up the whole body and provide an external air supply. Sometimes in a confined work space there is not enough room for a full suit.

    1. Terry G Edwards's Avatar Terry G Edwards

      The slightest little minute pinhole leak in the seal of the mask, first causes a temperature change in the air inside the mask and the air outside the mask. Ask any 8th grade science teacher and they will tell you that this causes condensation to form on the inside of the lens and the person will not be able to see clearly and become disoriented. While it may be possible in some situations to initially achieve a seal with a beard, it is not guaranteed to hold due to the perspiration caused by extreme heat and activity. Especially, since the pores expand in this process. This is the science as to why a person wears the mask to stay alive. If you're in a burning building and are depending on one of these individuals to come rescue you; most likely you would not want to take the chance of their equipment failing in the process.

      That being said, for hundreds, if not thousands of years, there have always been those who's faith or personal beliefs do not conform to normal social standards or government regulations for one reason or another. I have known many chaplains and their assistants who do not carry weapons. They carry Bibles. The same goes for medical personnel in the military. You would expect that one would definitely not send these people into a firefight.

      So why should these men be held to a different standard. Of course one would not send them into a situation that would risk their lives or the lives of others. That doesn't mean they are any less of a firefighter than their co-workers. They shouldn't be denied rights and privileges and opportunities that any other person might be entitled to. Nothing in the books says they wouldn't risk their life to pull me out of a burning car or house if they were faced with the situation.

    2. Terry G Edwards's Avatar Terry G Edwards

      The slightest little minute pinhole leak in the seal of the mask, first causes a temperature change in the air inside the mask and the air outside the mask. Ask any 8th grade science teacher and they will tell you that this causes condensation to form on the inside of the lens and the person will not be able to see clearly and become disoriented. While it may be possible in some situations to initially achieve a seal with a beard, it is not guaranteed to hold due to the perspiration caused by extreme heat and activity. Especially, since the pores expand in this process. This is the science as to why a person wears the mask to stay alive. If you're in a burning building and are depending on one of these individuals to come rescue you; most likely you would not want to take the chance of their equipment failing in the process.

      That being said, for hundreds, if not thousands of years, there have always been those who's faith or personal beliefs do not conform to normal social standards or government regulations for one reason or another. I have known many chaplains and their assistants who do not carry weapons. They carry Bibles. The same goes for medical personnel in the military. You would expect that one would definitely not send these people into a firefight.

      So why should these men be held to a different standard. Of course one would not send them into a situation that would risk their lives or the lives of others. That doesn't mean they are any less of a firefighter than their co-workers. They shouldn't be denied rights and privileges and opportunities that any other person might be entitled to. Nothing in the books says they wouldn't risk their life to pull me out of a burning car or house if they were faced with the situation.

      1. Paul Edward Nunis's Avatar Paul Edward Nunis

        Into a firefight is exactly where pacifist combat medics are sent to do their work... it isn't always in a tent miles away from the front lines, like that TV show. And US Navy sailors were able to keep an airtight seal while wearing a trimmed beard, in back to back modern wars.

    3. Howard's Avatar Howard

      I agree I work for an environmental company that did toxic waste cleanup also worked for company in doing pesticides you have to have a good seal on that mask or somebody's going to get hurt I understand the religious beliefs but you have a very good comment and I agree.

  1. Ann's Avatar Ann

    You know what the rules are when you apply for a job. If you don't like those rules choose a different career. It's like city people who move to the country and then make a fuss about the smell from the farms.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    Ok the problem is simple. The gas masks and oxygen masks MUST have a complete seal and even a hair would not allow a complete seal and thus put firefighters in danger as well as the oxygen masks. As such the firefighters would have to purchase OSHA approved gas and oxygen masks for themselves instead of demanding that the taxpayer purchase them for them. If they refuse to do so then they deserve to lose this case and should lose it. Just because you have freedom of religion does not mean that you should be allowed to use religion to place anyone elses life in danger as would be the case because you would have to have another firefighter come into a burning building to haul your idiotic rear out when you pass out from ingesting smoke. Give me a freaking break....Even the Military REQUIRES you to do the same thing and all military members that want to protest this rule either must abide by it or they must supply their own protective equipment. Every District court that has heard a case like this has ruled against the people who try and bring such a stupid case before them

    1. Keith Graham Ainsworth's Avatar Keith Graham Ainsworth

      But they do allow a complete seal, I've used these respirator where the environment was toxic, and they are effective even with a beard

      1. Frederick Charles Whitmarsh Junior's Avatar Frederick Charles Whitmarsh Junior

        Depends on the concentration and type of toxins as well as the physical activity involed

      2. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        No they dont, sorry. You have a Hindu follower who fought and won the right to use a turban while in ROTC, but he wont get any farther then that as he MUST go through the gas chamber. And to do that you MUST have a tight fitting gas mask. Hairs in the beards they wear does NOT allow for a tight fit.And this is from OSHA! https://www.osha.gov/publications/respiratory_protection_bulletin_2011 Which means they will LOSE their case unless they ca purchase their own masks and get them OSHA certified. And sorry there are multiple different versions of a respirator so if you used one as you claim, then give the make and model number. I bet you cant. And when you have to use a HAZMAT respirator in a HAZMAT suit, both federal law and OSHA REQUIRE that it be a complete airtight seal. If you have even one little hair that the seal is sitting on then it is not airtight and no way can it be made so.

  1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

    As long as they sign a waiver saying they will make no claims against the city related to any injury or respiratory problems arising from an ill-filling face mask, fine.

    Then again, even if they are barred by such an agreement against making a claim, if they get ill to the point that they cannot do their job, the city has lost an investment.

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      @Rev. MichaelRS I would rather have a clean shaven firefighter that's alive protecting our community than a firefighter who is allowed to have a beard and is dead because the mask did not make a good seal and God did not want to save either. It's more than just the individual life that's at stake. These people are hired to protect our community.

      1. Rev. MichaelRS's Avatar Rev. MichaelRS

        I agree. But, you know, some people get stupid over this kind of stuff and in our leftist woke world everybody's entitled.

        I guess the next thing is to join the Army but demand not to be required to fight on a Saturday or Sunday, or whatever the Sabbath day is for one's particular faith.

        1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

          @Rev. MichaelRS I agree. The US and Germany both had to deal with religious objectors. And the US had to deal with at least one soldier who refused to carry a gun into battle. I don't think he was Mormon or wearing the Magic Mormon under ware to protect him.

    2. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

      Religion gets into everything, doesnt it? Why not common sense?

  1. Joe Stutler's Avatar Joe Stutler

    The problem with facial hair for firefighters (and military, police, etc) is getting a good deal on respirators and gas masks. Maybe stop demanding magical exemptions to rational requirements for a given job.

  1. Laura McAllister's Avatar Laura McAllister

    I think as long as you do your job there’s no reason for anyone to judge what you long like, and they should learn your religion.

    1. Canadian Yankee's Avatar Canadian Yankee

      The question in this instance is not what they look like but whether they can do the job when safety equipment is circumvented by failed seals on masks due to facial hair.

    2. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

      Indoctrinate them with Christianity???

  1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

    a firefighter is expected to be able to don PPE (personal protective equipment) which, besides bunkers and jacket include a personal, sized and fitted facepiece (mask) from which one breaths air from their SCBA. there is NO way a facepiece is going to seal over a beard. therefore is a firefighter can not wear a mask, they can not do the job they were hired to do which is mitigate IDLH (immediately dangerous to life and health) situation which for most firefighters means carbon monoxide alarms, smell of smoke, fire and smoke extinguishment.

    if the people in question are instead, on the EMS side of their department then one could suppose the need for a facepiece/SCBA is pretty limited and they could possibly be excused. But the primary purpose of a firefighter is right there, in the name. if a candidate can't do the job then they need to look elsewhere. this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with religious discrimination and everything to do abiding by the rules and safety protocols in place for the safety of firefighters.

    caveat: if the firefighters in question are talking about a very short, trimmed beard that fits within the facepiece footprint and allows a proper seal then that may be a different story...IF...

    1. Donald J Rothschild Jr's Avatar Donald J Rothschild Jr

      Rev Dr Father JJ: While I agree with 99% of what you said regarding the firefighter and SCBAs the EMS side also has issues. In NYC FDNY EMS ( EMS is a separate bureau with FDNY) is usually stationed 1 floor below the fire floor if it is reasonable safe for them, so they have SCBAs. HOWEVER, what you failed to mention is that in RMS you are also subjected to various viruses, etc. so the use of an N95 respirator is mandated and must hav3 a proper seal to prevent infection to the EMS personal AND cross infection to others. (for informational purposes I am a retired Captain of the FDNY, Bureau of EMS)

      1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

        Thanks Cap, appreciate your input. FDNY pretty much writes the BIBLE (pun intended) for the fire service. I was a dinosaur and in before my department started to offer EMS. Once the department started to respond to EMS, all new hires as well as many of the existing members were minimum EMTs and most Paramedics (Lt's and Capt's), the rest remained EMRs (I prefered to pull hose anyway)

  1. Colleen McAllister's Avatar Colleen McAllister

    It depends on the bushiness of the facial hair. It will have to allow the fitting of a protective mask. These things should be taken into account when applying for a job in the first place.

  1. Rev Frankie PG's Avatar Rev Frankie PG

    I just shake my head and whisper under my breath when I see someone wearing a mask today. I wasn't a fan when Dr. Falsey first suggested them nor was I fan when the rules kept getting more strict. A majority of the rules that him and the Trump Administration, that Biden made even worse when he came in, proved to be draconian and as unhelpful as Biden's Administration today. All leaders, with a brain, have dropped nearly all of the measures because they've realized that it came from a man that was known for being on the wrong side of science, several times. So if the rule started then, I'd really like to know how they handled it before? I've been in emergency services for over 30 years now, first starting on LAPD back in 1990, so I've seen, handled and used the equipment that's grown through the decades. At no time did I find it right for anyone that has to wear a respirator to be able to complete their duties to have a beard, as even the slightest break in a seal can be the difference between a long prosperous life and death with complications. Therefore a person can't be a firefighter due to their religious belief, maybe they should be praying to their God to show them a different path. However if God chooses you to be in that path then he also chooses for you to lose the facial hair, he knows what the MANDATES are and I'm pretty sure their God doesn't want them to shorten their life.

    1. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

      GOPper and a christer...always have to make their"thoughts" (small though they may be) known to everyone even when nobody asked. GOPpers...the cornerstone of cognitive dissonance

    2. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

      Why not just have the religious firefighters just stand back and pray the fire out?

  1. Canadian Yankee's Avatar Canadian Yankee

    Choosing a religion is a personal choice, if for good and proper reasons the choosing of the religion causes you to fail to be able to meet the requirements of a job or profession, society is not to blame for your choice.

    We have been through this before many times on this page when we have talked about pharmacists, nurses and doctors failing to proscribe medical help not because of good medical practice perameters but rather religious bias.

    Time for society to say enough we are not responsible for your choices nor must we bend good practice, no matter the field, to satisfy your choices.

  1. Robert J Giammarco's Avatar Robert J Giammarco

    I agree with many of the comments posted. This has nothing to do with religion. The FF's are using this as an excuse, like a child who wants a toy. I am somewhat puzzled as to HOW did they get the job in the first palce? I am sure that when they were hired there were specific rules and regulations that they needed to adhere to. How did they get this far in their career with the facial hair? Did they niot have it then? How were they able to perform their duties? How did they get passed their yearly evaluations? I believe that this also has to do with the insurance carrier that their respect employer(s) have. That the insurance carrier's are demanding this due to claims, etc. They knew the requirenents when they started. These men are suppose to be professional in thier attitude, as well as compliant to the rules. There is no exception. Seems professionalism is no longer necessary, and society now wants to over use religion and racist as the new norm. Whatever happen to plain COMMON SENSE? This surely is case for it.

    1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

      The article says that this policy went into place in 2020. Apparently, beards were not a problem before 2020, why do they need to be a problem now? This is the type of thing that I dislike about some of these articles, many are missing basic information that should have been shared.

  1. Gordon DS Smith's Avatar Gordon DS Smith

    As a Health and Safety Engineer I must agree with this policy as beardd prevents any form of facial PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIMENT (PPE) from sealing properly. Without a proper seal the PPE is not performing its function properly and the health and safety of the firefighter is compromised and in jeopardy. Unfortunately religion cannot supercede safety in ant situation. If they hold their religious 'rights' above their personal safety then they are a liability to them selves and to the people they are sworn to help. A dead firefighter can't save anyone.

  1. Rev Ned's Avatar Rev Ned

    If you can’t wear the PPE, then find a different job.

  1. Marcella J Schieffelin's Avatar Marcella J Schieffelin

    They have been successful in other countries working as firefighters and in the military while still keeping their facial hair as per their religious faith. I think having a better understanding and how other countries have done this successfully will help to understand. In all, it sounds like there is more fear regarding potential lawsuits than anything else.

    1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

      @Marcella J Schieffelin You stated, "They have been successful in other countries working as firefighters and in the military while still keeping their facial hair as per their religious faith.'

      Please give some examples.

      1. Paul Edward Nunis's Avatar Paul Edward Nunis

        The US Navy from WWII through Vietnam allowed beards (having nothing to do with r for one.

        1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

          @Paul Edward Nunis Can you site a credible reference to support you claim?

          All branches of the U.S. military currently prohibit beards for a vast majority of recruits, although some mustaches are still allowed, based on policies that were initiated during the period of World War I.

          Why? The United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps have policies that prohibit beards on the basis of hygiene and the necessity of a good seal for chemical weapon protective masks. The official position is that uniform personal appearance and grooming contribute to discipline and a sense of camaraderie.

          There are medical exceptions. Religious exceptions began in 2010.

          Here's a link you might want to read which might change you mind.

          https://www.mynavyhr.navy.mil/References/US-Navy-Uniforms/Uniform-Regulations/Chapter-2/2201-Personal-Appearance/#:~:text=Beards%20will%20not%20exceed%201,ensure%20treatment%20regimen%20is%20followed.

    2. Keith Graham Ainsworth's Avatar Keith Graham Ainsworth

      I have used these respirators and can say that they are definitely effective even with a beard

      1. Ronaldo's Avatar Ronaldo

        I, and friends of mine, have also used these respirators and can definitely say they are not effective with a full beard. With only stubble, they will work for most, but not with a full beard.

    3. Rev. Dr. Father JJ's Avatar Rev. Dr. Father JJ

      that's because you don't understand what it is that firefighters do, what SCBA is and for, what the facepiece is and does and why beards won't be helpful. I think you may just be stringing words together from a let's-all-sing-kumbaya word-salad generator

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    You took the job on you knew what the job entailed it's about safety amongst other things.If you don't want to shave or cut your hair because of your faith.Its simple find another job where you don't have to wear respirators it's not rocket science

    1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

      But this policy only went into place in 2020. I believe it was to this recent change in the rule that the firefighters with religiously-worn beards are objecting. It seems to me that the firefighters with beards would have exactly as much protection as they did before 2020. The article does not explain why these exact same firefighters were fine before 2020 but not now. They cite covid, but that should be a much lesser issue now.

  1. Charles A. McCall's Avatar Charles A. McCall

    As a Career Firefighter and an Emergency Medical Technician, I do not see a problem with Jews and Muslims becoming Firefighters. The issue is that Firefighters are mandated by OSHA, NFPA, state and Federal regulations, and Departmental regulations to wear bunker gear/turnout gear (protective Firefighting attire), along with the SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) which does include a face mask, fitted to individual size, in order to fit properly. The Firefighter is breathing in regular "room" air from a air cylinder carried on his/her back. It is imperative that the rubber seal around the mask be perfectly sealed, in order to block superheated air and toxic substances and gases within the IDLH (Immediate Danger to Life and Health) atmosphere from entering the Firefighter's airway and lungs. I do not see any way around this requirement if you are actively fighting fire, especially within a commercial or residential structure where all the harmful and carcinogenic gases, flames, superheated gas and smoke, etc. are concentrated within. You would surely be severely injured or killed in a structure fire without being able to breathe clean air (not pure oxygen) from within your self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). This safety net is not achievable without a perfect, non-leaking seal on your face mask, that is connected to your air cylinder. Any facial hair would prevent a perfect, tight seal of the face mask, thus facilitating a potentially dangerous and/or deadly situation for the Firefighter. This is why a beard would be prohibited and having a beard would be reckless and potentially fatal. Firefighters are allowed to have mustaches and sideburns, provided that they do not interfere with a proper seal on the facepiece. Muslims and Jews that want to be Firefighters have to suck it up and bite the bullet, shave their face every day just like everyone else, in order to be in compliance. An injured Firefighter on the fire ground becomes another victim that needs to be rescued. It is no easy task to stop all fire ground operations and focus on rescuing the Rescuer. It is the number one priority to find that Firefighter first of all, then to remove him from the hazardous environment. It takes many Firefighters committed to saving just one Firefighter. A Firefighter with a beard would not be able to enter an IDLH. PERIOD. It is asinine to have any other philosophy or practice. You are a Muslim or Jew who has religious beliefs and opinions that you should wear a beard? Don't go into the Fire Service. Be a EMT or Paramedic and ride in the ambulance. Become a Police Officer. You want to be a Firefighter? SHAVE YOUR FACE. PERIOD.

    1. Rev Mary's Avatar Rev Mary

      well said brother

  1. Ahmed Abduljabar Al-Hujazi's Avatar Ahmed Abduljabar Al-Hujazi

    In my humble opinion, if these emergency personnel are putting themselves in harms way, in order to save the lives of people, I don't see how Allah can judge them harshly because they shaved their faces. It's what's in their hearts that matters, not what's on their surfaces. Like many verses of Quran, the one referring to keeping a beard as sunnah (recommended, or best practice) is open to interpretation. The verse basically says that one should not change what Allah has created, meaning that if Allah has created men to have beards, then they should not remove that feature. Yet, many devout Muslims also follow Hadith, which are the sayings and observed practices of Muhammad (peach be upon him). In the hadith, the Prophet said that one should groom oneself to be clean, as in trimming the hair, beard, fingernails, pubes, and underarms. So, which practice does one follow? Again, it's up to the individual Muslim. Islam has no recognized clergy, but we do have scholars and imams that are learned in Islam and can provide guidance. Ultimately, it is up to the individual Muslim, and only Allah has the right to judge us, and needs no help in doing so.

  1. Michael A. Salato Jr's Avatar Michael A. Salato Jr

    I was a voluntary Firefighter/EMT for 24 years. You had several different positions to choose from. An interior firefighter was required to do a fit test of a mask to qualify for that position for his own safety and the safety of his fellow firefighters and the ones he's saving. A failed seal on a mask due to facial hair is a danger to all involved. So, my point is there are many other positions that don't require a fit test in the volunteer fire houses, pump operator, driver, etc. where you can keep your beard. Union operated fire companies may have different rules due to the the numbers of firefighters they have and need to have all fighters to be qualified as INTERIOR, so they can change out firefighters as the air tanks run out of air and need to sit out the remaining time of the fire. "A dead firefighter is no good to anyone" This is a quote from a wise fire chief I had, It sounds harsh but it's all about saving lives including your own. No one wants to tell a loved one that his or her family member died in a fire due to a compromised seal on the PPE designed to protect them and the one to be rescued due to facial hair. They are, or already have developed Air feed hoods that do not require a seal around the face, that might be another option when it comes about.

  1. Glenn Alan Emery's Avatar Glenn Alan Emery

    As an Air Force pilot, we were not allowed to have facial hair that would impede on the effectiveness of an oxygen mask. It had nothing to do with religion and still does not. The only remedy I can think of is for individuals who feel they are required to have facial hair, to sign a waiver that would indemnify municipalities from any loss or damage caused by an improperly fitting mask, or to seek out another occupation that does not require the use of an oxygen/respirator mask to safely complete a task.

  1. Rev. Kev's Avatar Rev. Kev

    I don't see how this can be a religious discrimination case since nothing was done that specifically says such and such can't be done if you're this religion. It's about a broad physical characteristic that a man of ANY faith can have. It's a male facial thing. Not a faith thing. Having a proper seal on respirators was a rule for firefighters before these guys joined up. Respirators in a smoke-filled, burning building are a necessity for the lives of the firefighters, and those they are there to help. So they were hired and put in places they wouldn't endanger the lives of others to accommodate their faith (which is the opposite of religious discrimination since they were still hired). Now they're whinging because they can't have their way. Having their beard for their faith should be considered a personal sacrifice for God. Move on.

    And, yes, there are also the ramifications of legal fallout if an emergency worker suddenly can't perform his duties in the middle of an operation (from a condition the city or county already knew about) and it results in physical injury to himself and others. It's really not worth the thousands or millions of dollars in damages that could result just to appease someone's personal wishes.

  1. Gary Stephen Lowden's Avatar Gary Stephen Lowden

    If you are putting other people's well-being a risk with your behavior, then either the beard goes; or you find another position in the organization. If it doesn't pay as well, so be it. Apparently, wearing a full beard does put not only the beard wearer but fellow workers and the general public at risk. It is really a no brainer. Consider the reduced pay/benefits as part of your offering to God.

  1. Peggy Ann Warner's Avatar Peggy Ann Warner

    I have a quick solution: we will respect your religious beliefs to keep your beards but you have to sign here ______ that you knowingly understood what you are doing and that you may be harmed because of your beard and cannot sue us for injuries caused by refusing to adhere to OSHA regulations.

    Or better yet: you know the health regulations required for this job so this job is not suitable to your health. This goes for the military as well.

  1. John Tatanka-Sa Trudell's Avatar John Tatanka-Sa Trudell

    The no beard policy does make sense if they are wearing SCBA gear to enter a burning object. The mask seals up in on demand and pressurized breathing to keep smoke out. There is no sense to send a person in who could become another victim to rescue due to smoke inhalation. Plus the mask keeps super heated air from going in your lungs, check out about back drafts or flashovers. I was a volunteer firefighter, emt, extrication, etc for a good long time. Be safe people.

    1. Rev Mary's Avatar Rev Mary

      good comment. I knew by reading it you were trained. Me too and totally agree

  1. Thomas Edwin Peterson's Avatar Thomas Edwin Peterson

    Having used various scuba and re-breathers with a beard. I've coated the surround with petroleum jelly and had decent result. Admittedly it's inconvenient to remove post use but worked. I'm sure elite military divers have figured out better product to use. Check with ft bragg etc.

  1. Keith Graham Ainsworth's Avatar Keith Graham Ainsworth

    I worked in an environment in which I was often required to wear a respirator. When the company upgraded the respirator I was instructed that for safety reasons, I would have to shave off my beard. Well, I'm quite attached to my beard, I had had it for 30 years at that point, so I told them that I would not shave (not for religious reasons though) and I quit my job. I later took another similar job which involved the use of identical masks. I asked about the effectiveness of these masks when the wearer had a beard and the safety officer who was introducing us to the masks demonstrated that they were good by having me put a mask on, blocking the intake and having me breathe in. My eyeballs nearly popped out with the reduction in pressure inside the mask. They seal well even when the wearer has a beard so there is no valid justification for requiring staff to shave. Not saying that it's religious discrimination, but the whole situation is unnecessary

    1. Frederick Charles Whitmarsh Junior's Avatar Frederick Charles Whitmarsh Junior

      Standing still pushing the mask harder into your face may make it seal, but when worn in a work situation with things pushing it off your face such as turm out gear and crawling in a burning building turning your head looking for victims the beard may become an issue. That would not be the place or time to find out, and then it would not be just your life in jeopardy.

  1. Clerance Homister's Avatar Clerance Homister

    They knew the policy before they took the job. Don't like it... find another job. Enough with the crybaby crap.

    1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

      According to the article, this is a policy that went into place in 2020 due to covid. So yes, they did know the policy before they took the job. But then the policy changed and that is their problem.

  1. Travis Steven Sahr's Avatar Travis Steven Sahr

    Spend the money that it costs to run a lawsuit on research and development on a new "mask" or system so that it would enable faith followers to to the job and follow their faith (maintain their facial hair)... there are smart people in this world that could solve that issue without wasting money on court costs and lawyers. Now if its about just being clean shaved for the purpose of policy or department preference, yea, they should be sued if that is all it is.

    1. Peggy Ann Warner's Avatar Peggy Ann Warner

      Every hazardous job has its regulations and they are there because studies were done. I’m all for OSHA regulations because I worked in a job, state medical school, that was exempt… until it wasn’t anymore. Periodically, I had to take inoculations for various diseases, tetanus to name one, use gloves practically all day long and a mask when working with certain diseases. If I had a religious problem with any of that then that would not have been a field I should be in. Further, I personally did not like using animals for research so I never to a job that would require me to do that. Common sense and why is that lost?

    2. John Alex Paxson's Avatar John Alex Paxson

      religious beliefs should not interfere with safety ... common sense ... some people would stick their head in a fire if they thought they could see the devil!

  1. Travis Steven Sahr's Avatar Travis Steven Sahr

    Comment removed by user.

  1. Cheryl Pettijohn's Avatar Cheryl Pettijohn

    Let them take the possible fatal consequences of their unsealed equipment, after signing away all rights to litigate when they refuse to follow policy.

    1. Rev Mary's Avatar Rev Mary

      nice idea BUT, it puts other fire fighters in danger to rescue them. FFs wont just leave a brother or sister incapacitated in a fire.

  1. David Owen Buck's Avatar David Owen Buck

    Throughout the Cold War, when Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare was considered a serious possibility, a no facial hair policy was strictly enforced because it was impossible to achieve an air-tight fit of the NBC mask over facial hair. Various workarounds were tried, like coating the beard in Vaseline, but none of them worked. Only lately when, one assumes, the possibility of NBC warfare has declined, do you see soldiers wearing beards. Frankly I hate it. It looks untidy to this old soldier.

    Firefighters have to be able to wear a Scott Air-Pak or similar self-contained breathing apparatus. Like the NBC masks of my day, there is no way to achieve an airtight fit of these over a beard. Attempting to do so puts these firefighters and the people they are supposed to save in danger. It's that simple.

    What I cannot figure out is how it took these organisations until 2007 and 2020 to include this fact in their regulations. Maybe It just never came up before? In any event the rule makes absolute sense and any judge who strikes it down is pandering to populism and not fact.

    I am really sick and tired of people who join an organisation and then complain and whine about the rules. If you don't like the rules, don't join.

    1. Paul Edward Nunis's Avatar Paul Edward Nunis

      Anyone who was in the military from the 1940s through the '70s would know that well groomed beards worked in combat using breathing apparatus.

    2. Paul Edward Nunis's Avatar Paul Edward Nunis

      Except that in the real world, the US Navy had no such problem achieving an airtight seal in OBAs... WWII through Korea and Vietnam, while allowing closely trimmed beards.

  1. Scottie L Queen's Avatar Scottie L Queen

    concerning facial hair in an EMS field it is for their own safety . The face shield , such as air tanks won't seal properly. Being a U.S.MARINE the facial hair , is difficult to deal with the same safety standards as EMS . Then there is a tradition with some military institutions that require some discipline that can't be explained.

  1. Steven Ferrell's Avatar Steven Ferrell

    Being EMS and working with Fire Fighters, I can see the safety factor the city is talking about. It would not allow a good sealed fit on the face and could result in smoke getting inside their breathing and face apprentice. I myself have had to be fitted for one of those and there is no way you could get a good fit with facial hair. You are putting your own life in danger by trying to do that.

  1. John Alex Paxson's Avatar John Alex Paxson

    maybe they should look for a new line of work ... work comes with rules ... religion aside ... follow safety rules or new employment is the best option.

  1. Rev Mary's Avatar Rev Mary

    As a former fire fighter I understand the "mask seal" issue. Every fire fighter is trained over and over about it. The dept probably doesnt want to be sued by deceased fire fighters family etc. FFs know when they are hired what the issue is. Though we all want to honor someones spiritual tradition. They knew before they signed on.

    1. Paul Edward Nunis's Avatar Paul Edward Nunis

      It was literally impossible to know that before. The policy was to allow beards, and when that policy changed it affected everyone who took the job after being told that their religious beliefs (which includes some Christians BTW) would be protected.

  1. Donald Ray Linville's Avatar Donald Ray Linville

    I am a retired (mostly) industrial hygienist. I was the Director of Health and Safety for a large Haz Mat response company for several years. We had a clean shaven policy for our technical people who were all required to enter Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH). The important issue was the safety of our personnel. Being clean shaven was a requirement of employment. It had nothing to do with religious preferences. If people were not willing to comply, it was of course their choice to comply with required policies or to become employed in a different effort. Fire fighters are also required to enter potentially IDLH environments. Items involving Health and Safety should not be confused with religious beliefs or preferences. I am a life long Liberal and wholly support individual rights. But this should never be lumped into preferences or even religious beliefs. If you can’t see the issues, please consider using a seat belt or not because it causes you to have wrinkled clothing or whatever other excuse that you can come up with. Don Linville

  1. Paul Edward Nunis's Avatar Paul Edward Nunis

    It was literally impossible to know that before. The policy was to allow beards, and when that policy changed it affected everyone who took the job after being told that their religious beliefs (which includes some Christians BTW) would be protected.

  1. Julie Armstrong's Avatar Julie Armstrong

    I think that these men know of any risk or consequences, if any. They should be allowed to wear facial hair for their personal belief. A compromise as long as it it groomed and short.

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