A former Premier Health security officer said he was fired for refusing to shave his beard, which the hospital should have allowed him to keep it as a part of his faith as a Norse pagan, also known as a heathen.
The former employee, Raymond Whitsel, said in a statement through his attorney, Ashlie Case Sletvold, that he filed a complaint of religious discrimination Monday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Cincinnati office.
Premier Health said the nonprofit does not comment on specific employees, but its campus police department has a facial hair grooming policy that does not allow beards.
“Such grooming policies are common, and our policy is similar to the City of Dayton Police Department’s, through which Miami Valley Hospital’s campus police are commissioned,” Premier stated. “Miami Valley Hospital and Premier Health do not discriminate on the basis of religion, and we have a process in place to review and grant requests for religious accommodations in accordance with the law.”
Whitsel said had worked for Good Samaritan Hospital for 12 years and was fired July 31 after he didn’t shave his beard to comply with a new grooming policy requiring security employees to be clean shaven.
Good Samaritan’s main campus has since closed and most of its operations having been transferred to Miami Valley Hospital and Miami Valley Hospital North.
A copy of the complaint provided by his attorney was filed against Miami Valley Hospital North and Premier Health.
Whitsel said his beard is an important part of his identity as a Norse pagan and did not feel his beliefs were respected when he explained this and sought a religious exemption.
“I felt like they kind of mocked me,” he said.
“Wearing a beard is a central tenet of Mr. Whitsel’s faith in keeping with the Old Norse ways. This reality has been recognized by other employers, including the federal government,” according to a statement from his attorney.
The statement said Whitsel provided information to his employer on his religious practice including the U.S. Army’s accommodation of a military police officer’s beard “but the hospital refused to relent, imposing discipline and then termination.”
The Army had authorized beards for religious soldiers to accommodate Sikh soldiers, according to Army Times, but gave guidance that the directive also applied to all religions including Norse pagans.
“America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. Federal and state law guarantee Mr. Whitsel the right to practice his faith without interference by his employer. An employee should not have to choose between his faith and his livelihood,” stated Sletvold, with The Chandra Law Firm.