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Penn Police officer Joseph Lewis claimed he was fired because his skin condition, pseudofolliculitis barbae, prevented him from shaving his beard.

Photo: Sam Holland / The Daily Pennsylvanian

A former Penn Police officer sued the University on Monday over alleged racial discrimination motivating his dismissal, Billy Penn reported. He is seeking an undisclosed sum of money.

The officer, Joseph Lewis, claimed he was fired because he maintained facial hair, which is reportedly against the policy for officers. His skin condition, which is called pseudofolliculitis barbae, primarily affects black men and stems from an issue with ingrown hairs that create bumps every time he shaves, Billy Penn wrote. He had applied for a waiver last August to keep his beard, on the condition that it remain no thicker than a quarter inch.

Lewis, who is black, claimed that after he applied for the waiver, his supervisors began mistreating him. The lawsuit said Lewis was denied overtime requests and singled out among his colleagues.

After receiving a merit commendation from the Division of Public Safety, Lewis later was dismissed from DPS, which he attributed to discord over his skin condition, Billy Penn reported.

The lawsuit also said DPS cited issues over family leave and a failure to update his personal information as reasons for his dismissal

“He had been there for years,” Lewis’ attorney, Timothy Creech, told Billy Penn. “And then they piled onto him with all these things they came up with, one after the other.”

Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy said Penn doesn’t “comment on pending litigation.” DPS did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

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