NY fire chief’s son sues dept. over order to cut hair

By FireRescue1 Staff

UTICA, N.Y. — A firefighter is suing his father’s department alleging discrimination based on his gender and religious practices.

John Brooks, the son of Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks, filed a lawsuit against the department alleging he was subject to a hostile work environment, harassed and ridiculed because of his hair. He also claimed that a superior told him he had “no respect for yourself or your father,” and said he has been called transsexual and homosexual.

Brooks said he is a Nazirite, and as part of his religion he cannot cut his hair. Brooks filed the suit December 2016, and has not cut his hair since May 2014, reported Syracuse.com.

Brooks said he was ordered to cut his hair January 2015 because of safety-related concerns. When he asked for an exception, citing his religious beliefs, he claims he was denied or ignored.

If he cut his hair, Brooks said it would have a “spiritually and emotionally devastating effect” on his life. He also stated that female firefighters have hair just as long and have not been told to cut it.

Brooks is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

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