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Judge rules against Black firefighters who sued Fla. city over shaving exception

The Jacksonville firefighters wanted to wear closely trimmed beards to avoid skin irritations, but the judge said that would violate OSHA rules


Photo/Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department

By Leila Merrill

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Black firefighters who sued the city over grooming standards to help them manage a skin condition lost their case last month, the Florida Times-Union reported.

In 2020, the firefighters argued that the department was wrongly burdening Black firefighters by requiring them to be cleanshaven – including those who have a condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae, which can involve ingrown hairs, irritated skin and scarring.

The firefighters said that they should be allowed to wear closely trimmed beards that would avoid skin irritations but also not interfere with the proper fit of oxygen masks.

A federal judge ruled against them, saying that they were asking for something that would violate rules set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Last year, a Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department firefighter said the chief told him to either go home or go into the bathroom to cut his hair because it was too thick. He went home.