Firefighter files suit, says he’s being forced to shave beard

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTIC CITY -

A firefighter from Atlantic City has filed a civil rights lawsuit, alleging he is being forced to shave a beard he says he grew for religious reasons.

Atlantic City firefighter Alexander Smith says in his lawsuit he began growing out his beard in December as a born-again Christian.

He says the department is threatening to suspend him without pay.

Fire department guidelines prohibit beards and goatees, saying facial hair can affect the seal of the breathing mask firefighters wear while battling fires.

Smith works as an air mask technician and says he has never had to enter a burning building or wear a mask in his role.

A request for comment was left with Fire Chief Scott Evans and Deputy Chief Thomas Culleny Jr.

AP wire services helped contribute to this report.

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