Racial bias found in ban on beards

January 29, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

The state Human Relations Commission has ruled that a strict beard ban for campus police at the University of Maryland at Baltimore unfairly discriminates against black men, a decision that could affect other police departments in Maryland.

The commission appeals board ordered the reinstatement of a black policeman who was discharged when he refused to shave, citing a physician's advice that he had a skin ailment that would result in severe cuts, sores and scarring if he shaved.

The skin condition, pseudofolliculitis barbae, or PFB, is unique to black males, a certain percentage of whom develop severe cases that inhibit shaving.

The board determined that Donald Boyd, the campus policeman, was a victim of both racial bias and handicap bias by the university, which discharged him in May 1983 for refusing to shave. The board also awarded him $22,591 in back pay.

Hearing Examiner Timothy J. Hogan ruled in June that Mr. Boyd, who now works as a guard at the Walters Art Gallery, was a victim of racial discrimination but not of handicap bias. Both the university and the commission staff appealed the case to the commission's appeals board, which found discrimination on both counts last week.

Mr. Boyd, 43, had worked for the campus police 10 years until his condition worsened to the point that dermatologists advised him not to shave.

The ruling, which the university can appeal to Baltimore Circuit Court, could affect other police forces in Maryland that have an absolute no-beards policy, such as the state police and county police in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

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