Councilman David G. Greenfield (D-Brooklyn) is calling on the NYPD to immediately reinstate recruit Fishel Litzman, who was dismissed from the Academy this past Friday June 8th for refusing to trim his beard, which he keeps at a short length as part of his religious beliefs as a Chasidic Jew. Mr. Litzman was just weeks away from joining the force as a rookie officer when he was unfairly dismissed last week, despite the NYPD’s full knowledge of his religious beliefs when he was accepted to the Academy. Mr. Litzman, who scored very high on Academy exams and had informed the NYPD in writing several months ago that he could not trim his beard due to his religious beliefs, was not even given an official reason on his dismissal papers for his termination.
Councilman Greenfield is now asking NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to personally review this decision and reinstate Mr. Litzman to the Academy, based on federal protections of religious beliefs, prior NYPD rulings and the religious freedom law, the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, that Greenfield co-sponsored and was signed into law in by Mayor Bloomberg in August 2011. Greenfield is also asking Commissioner Kelly to review all policies and procedures governing facial hair, head wear and other aspects of the NYPD uniform that impact a officer’s religious freedoms.
“I know that the NYPD prides itself on its diversity. That diversity needs to include tolerance for religious beliefs. By all accounts, Mr. Litzman would make a stellar member of the NYPD, especially as the department works to reflect the changing demographics of the city. I encourage Commissioner Kelly will do the right thing and reinstate Mr. Litzman into the NYPD,” said Greenfield.
The New York City Council recently took action to prevent exactly this type of religious discrimination in the workplace. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act places the burden on the employer to show that the individual otherwise would not be able to perform the job duties. It was passed overwhelmingly by the New York City Council and signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on August 30, 2011.
“Given the steps we have taken to end workplace discrimination here in New York City, this decision by the NYPD is very disappointing. I will continue to fight to make sure our religious beliefs are protected, and to stand alongside individuals like Mr. Litzman whose rights are infringed upon,” added Greenfield