Joseph Lewis is a campus police officer for the University of Pennsylvania. More accurately he was a campus police officer for the university until he lost his job in 2016. Lewis is black, and he has filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the esteemed school. He is charging that his treatment by the school and his subsequent removal reflects racial bias following his request for a waiver from the school’s rule against officers having facial hair.
Lewis suffers from a medical condition that the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology says is much more common among black males: it’s called Pseudofolliculitis Barbae. It causes painful and unsightly ingrown hairs to form on the face as a result of shaving, and so he had applied in August for a waiver and to be allowed to maintain a beard that was just one quarter inch thick in order to avoid the condition’s symptoms.
Lewis’ lawsuit indicates that despite the fact that he had received a merit commendation from the Penn Division of Public Safety just one year ago, immediately after his waiver request was submitted he began to experience hostile treatment on the job. His requests for overtime shifts were denied, his car was searched in what he says was an attempt to find things to use in citations against him, and while other officers were assigned to cars to get around the campus, he was forced to walk. He was told that his waiver request was being viewed unfavorably by the administration, and had a superior indicate that he should “shave or go home.”
Lewis’ claim indicates that the campus policy is discriminatory, and created a hostile environment for him as well actions that were retaliatory. The campus police department’s stated reason for having dismissed him indicates that he failed to update personal information and that there were issues revolving around family leave.
If you have been the subject of workplace discrimination based on your race, or you have been punished or retaliated against as a result of complaining about it, please call us. Our experienced and knowledgeable employment law attorneys at Schorr & Associates will work hard to achieve justice for you.