A former Kane County Jail guard who alleges he was forced to choose between his job and his beard has filed a federal lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department.
In the federal suit filed this week in Chicago, Abal Zaidi of Streamwood said he was forced out of his job in December 2006 after Sheriff Pat Perez reinstituted a policy mandating that correctional officers be clean-shaven. Zaidi, a Muslim, said his beard was an expression of his religious faith.
Zaidi questioned the rule, according to the suit, and was told by superiors to produce documentation supporting his position. However, Zaidi alleged that three days later, he was called into another meeting with his supervisors and was told to resign or be fired.
Zaidi's supervisors allegedly said his departure was performance-related, but the Chicago branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations contends the jailer was fired for religious reasons. The council filed the suit on Zaidi's behalf, saying the sheriff's actions violated his civil rights.
"We believe reasonable religious accommodation is a constitutionally mandated right," council Executive Director Ahmed Rehab said Wednesday.
Many Muslims, and some Jewish sects, believe men must grow their beards, Rehab said. (MORE)