On April 4, 2022, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Office of Federal Operations (OFO) denied the Department of Defense’s Request for Reconsiderations and affirmed its prior decisions in favor of GEL clients finding that the Department of Defense’s blanket policy requiring all officers to be clean-shaven regardless of their medical condition violates the Rehabilitation Act.
GEL represents ten officers within the Pentagon Force Protection Agency who had a medical condition called Pseudofolliculitis barbae. Pseudofolliculitis barbae, also known as PFB, is a bacterial skin disorder that prevents men, including over 60% African American men, from being clean-shaven. In July 2010, the Agency implemented a new policy related to face masks and directed the officers to shave their facial hair in accordance with the policy or face reassignment or termination. In its initial decision, OFO “concluded that the Agency failed to meet its burden of proving that there was no accommodation that would enable Complainants” to perform their job duties. In its April 4, 2022 decision, OFO rejected the Agency’s request for reconsideration and ordered that the Agency reinstate the officers to their prior positions retroactive to the date they were removed, reimburse the officers with appropriate backpay, provide reasonable accommodations to the officers, provide the officers with a clean record, pay an appropriate amount of compensatory damages to the officers, conduct training on reasonable accommodations, and pay reasonable attorneys fees.