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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Philly Can Ban Officer From Wearing Headscarf

(CN) - The city of Philadelphia properly refused to let a female Muslim police officer wear a headscarf with her uniform, because the religious garb would disrupt the police department's solidarity, the 3rd Circuit ruled.

For three consecutive days in 2003, Kimberlie Webb wore her headscarf to work, refused to remove it and was sent home. The police department later suspended her for 13 days for insubordination.

Webb sued the city, alleging religious discrimination, hostile work environment and gender discrimination.

The district court ruled for the city, saying its dress code for law enforcement officers, which offers no accommodation for religious symbols and attire, helps to "enhance cohesiveness, cooperation, and the esprit de corps of the police force."

The federal appeals court in Philadelphia agreed that any accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the city.

The court quoted Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, who said the department's uniform dress code "encourages the subordination of personal preferences in favor of the overall policing mission" and conveys "a sense of authority and competence to other officers ... as well as to the general public."

The 3rd Circuit found his arguments convincing.

"Commissioner Johnson's thorough and uncontradicted reasons for refusing accommodations are sufficient to meet the more than de minimis cost of an undue burden."

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