Fishel Litzman, a 38-year old father of five, was kicked out of the police academy this month for the length of his beard. Just weeks from graduation, Mr. Litzman was informed that his beard did not comply with New York Police Department policy. Litzman, a Hasidic Jew, refused to abide by this policy for religious reasons.
Litzman performed well on the police department tests with scores of 99, 100, and 96, but received warnings for minor mistakes such as forgetting his gym equipment. On January 27, 2012, Litzman was cited for his beard length. On January 30 to February 2, 2012, he was given a command discipline. He was not officially fired until June, 2012.
Paul Browne, chief spokesperson for the NYPD, defended, “The NYPD makes reasonable accommodations in this regard, permitting beards for religious purposes to be kept to 1 (millimeter) in length. This was explained to the recruit in the Police Academy.” The NYPD says it has at least two dozen Orthodox Jewish officers, having hired its first in 2006.
Litzman claims that the police department was aware that he would not shave his beard prior to admitting him. He is now being represented by Nathan Lewin, a high profile attorney that has won similar battles with the Air Force and Army. On June 9, 2012, Lewin stated, “We’re going to be deliberating and considering what the steps are that we’re going to take.” Lewin has said Litzman’s firing is a clear case of employment discrimination.
Read Hasidic NYPD recruit fired over beard in the New York Daily News.