Fired Officer Accuses Sheriff Joe of Beard Bias

     PHOENIX (CN) – A Muslim jail officer claims he was demoted by the Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Office for refusing to shave his beard, despite initially being told it wouldn’t be a problem.

     When Sinan Fazlovic attended detention officer academy on his first day on the job, he says Arpaio approached him and asked who he was. Fazlovic says he was told to report to Deputy Chief Tiffani Shaw, who told him he would have to shave his beard by the next day or he would lose his job.
     Fazlovic, a Bosnian Muslim who became a U.S. citizen in 2004, says he asked sheriff’s office representatives before accepting the job if he could keep his full-length beard and was told he could. But he says Shaw told him that “he might be required to wear a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) in emergency situations and that his beard prevented him from maintaining a proper seal of the SCBA against his face.”
     Fazlovic says he made numerous offers to perform a “fit-test” to show that his beard would not interfere with the device and made repeated requests for accommodation of his religious views, which were denied. He also asked to be transferred to detention areas that would place him in a position where he would be less likely to have to wear the mask, but those requests were denied.
     Eventually Fazlovic was told to report to work clean-shaven or “to accept a demotion to a lower paying job,” according to his federal claim, causing him to be demoted and then fired because of the sheriff’s office “ongoing and continuous religious discrimination.”
     Defendants include Arpaio, Maricopa County, its Sheriff’s Office, and five other officers. Fazlovic is represented by Susan Martin of Martin & Bonnett and Daniel Pochoda with the ACLU of Arizona.

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