Shalom Life | May 12, 2015

Hasidic Jew Claims Florida Police Forced Him to Shave His Beard

Benjamin Newmark has filed a lawsuit against Flordia Sheriff's Office after allegedly experiencing anti-Semitic abuse

By: Daina Goldfinger

Published: April 30th, 2015 in News » World

Photo: Orthodox man reads Torah


On Monday, Benjamin Newmark, a Hasidic Jewish employee at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) in Florida filed a lawsuit against the institution for religious discrimination.

Newmark declared a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fort Myers, stating that the sheriff’s department did not conform to stipulations set out by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The religious discrimination against Newmark all began in 2009, when he initially requested that certain arrangements be made. The proposed religious accommodations would allow him to cover his head, maintain his beard and permit him days off of the Jewish Sabbath and other holidays.

It was after this simple request that Newmark reportedly experienced considerable hateful and derogatory comments from his fellow employees.

According to Newmark, the comments included being asked what area of Jerusalem he was from, and being called a “weird, hairy little Jewish man.” Newmark also alleges that a Nazi Iron Cross flag was placed outside his cubicle – a discriminatory act that sends a clear message.

In response to the apparent racism displayed by the sheriff’s office, Newmark filed complaints with the EEOC in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Newmark claims that in response to his objections, the CCSO forced him to shave his beard, prohibited him from wearing a head covering and demoted him from the department’s Gang Unit to a jail technician.

The issue was revisited in January after the sheriff’s office refused to participate in a settlement discussion, and the incident was forwarded to the U.S. Department of Justice. Unsettlingly, they found no rationale for discrimination, and notified both parties that 90 days would be allotted in order to file a lawsuit.

This is fundamentally what prompted the lawsuit, with Nancy Abudu, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, to represent Newmark.

The sheriff’s department has yet to comment.

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