A Muslim police officer who sued the NYPD over a policy limiting beards allowed for religious reasons would face irreparable harm without protection from the courts, a judge said Wednesday as he ordered the city to reinstate the officer’s pay and benefits a day after he was suspended and escorted from police headquarters.
U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel criticized the city repeatedly before finding it was probable Officer Masood Syed would succeed in his suit and issuing a temporary restraining order that will remain in place until a July 8 hearing.
The department says it bans beards as a safety measure so gas masks fit tightly across faces but allows beards for religious reasons up to 1 millimeter in length. The judge, who is bearded, said 1 millimeter of hair exists when a man is unshaven for a day or two. He said it seemed the policy is enforced haphazardly.
Syed said two uniformed supervisors escorted him from Manhattan NYPD headquarters where he works as a law clerk to administrative judges, sometimes preparing legal documents for the police commissioner about disciplinary issues.
“It was extremely humiliating,” Syed said. “I felt insulted, frankly.”
Syed said he has maintained a 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 employees who find the religious exception insufficient.
In his ruling, Castel referenced a November 2013 ruling by the late-Judge Harold Baer Jr. after an Orthodox Jewish officer sued the NYPD after it forced him out because he insisted on growing a 1-inch beard.
In that case, Baer found the rule was applied unevenly and was too broad to satisfy the law.