Ruling in officer-shaving case snips away at no-beard rules

September 09, 1992|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

The University of Maryland at Baltimore cannot force its black police officers to shave if they suffer from a severe skin disease, Maryland's second-highest court ruled yesterday.

The ruling by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals upheld the state Human Relations Commission's award of $22,591 in back pay to Donald Boyd, who was not allowed to wear a beard after returning to work from sick leave.

Mr. Boyd suffers from a skin condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), which causes scarring, bleeding and pain, and is aggravated by shaving.

The disorder usually afflicts black men, and the most effective treatment is to refrain from shaving.

Lee D. Hoshall, assistant general counsel for the Human Relations Commission, said the court's decision would alter the grooming policies of the Maryland State Police and Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County police departments.

"This decision makes it absolutely clear that police agencies will have to abolish no-beard policies or modify them so that people with this condition can be allowed to wear a beard," said Mr. Hoshall, who represented Mr. Boyd in the appellate court proceedings.

A three-judge panel ruled that the ban on beards adversely affects the university's black male officers.

Judge Robert F. Fischer noted that other police agencies have allowed exceptions for those who suffer from PFB, including the University of Maryland College Park police force.

Mr. Boyd first challenged UMAB's grooming policy in 1983. His complaint was turned down in June 1985 by a personnel department hearing officer who found no discrimination on the basis of race or handicap.

But the Human Relations Commission overruled that decision four years later, saying there was racial discrimination.

The university next lost an appeal in Baltimore Circuit Court.

After yesterday's ruling, Assistant Attorney General William F. Howard said the state had not yet decided whether to take the case to the Court of Appeals.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.