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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Friday it has filed suit against emergency transport companies for discriminating and retaliating against applicants and employee first responders who wear beards.
The EEOC said it filed suit against Greenwood Village, Colorado-based Global Medical Response Inc., its American Medical Response Inc. unit and AMR subsidiaries for discriminating and retaliating against those with sincerely held religious beliefs and disabilities that required them to wear beards in conflict with the companies’ policies against facial hair.
The EEOC said in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver that applicants and employees in the EMT and paramedic positions had requested accommodations since at least December 2018 to be allowed to wear facial hair, but GMR and AMR contended their respirators would not fit properly if the employee has facial hair.
The EEOC said GMR and AMR denied the applicants and employees the use of a respirator that would have allowed them to maintain their facial hair and perform their jobs safely.
The agency said because of the policy, some were forced to shave in violation of their religious beliefs or doctors’ orders to keep their jobs, while others who would not shave or complained their rights were being violated were fired.
The companies are charged with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The agency is seeking back and front pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.
Darrell Graham, EEOC district director in Atlanta, said in a statement that GMR and AMR operate one of the largest medical transport companies in the country.
GMR did not respond to a request for comment.