Officer D. Jemes (162055)
Credit: WGCL-TV Atlanta

Atlanta, GA (WGCL) — An Atlanta police officer has a big beef with the department over his beard.

Officer D. Jemes has filed an EEOC complaint against his bosses, alleging race and disability discrimination. He claims the department won’t let him work because of his facial hair.

“He has a disability called folliculitis. It particularly affects African-American males and they develop bumps, razor burn, but it can be much more extreme than that,” said Rachel Berlin, who is Jemes’ lawyer. “It can be…very painful. He comes to work every day in uniform ready to serve Atlanta, and every day they have sent him home, saying he’s violating the policies and he can’t return to work unless he’s clean shaven.”

For five months, Jemes hasn’t been getting a paycheck. Because of the discrimination complaint he can’t say much, but told CBS46 life has been tough.

“I just get enough money to eat and go day-by-day hoping that someone will let me borrow here, borrow there, and even that’s running out. I don’t have any transportation no more because I wasn’t able to pay my car note,” he said.

The Atlanta police dress code says in part, “Employees will be clean-shaven. Facial hair is not permitted with the exception of mustaches and sideburns.”

“As a police officer, you can work extra jobs and they have suspended his ability to do that because he supposedly isn’t complying with their policies,” Berlin said.

Three different dermatologists diagnosed him with the same condition. One wrote in part, “There is no cure for this problem. I am recommending that you grow a beard to alleviate this dermatologic condition.”

Woodstock Police Chief Calvin Moss told CBS46 he does make exceptions for documented medical conditions. Officer Jemes’ lawyer is puzzled as to why the Atlanta Police Department isn’t doing the same thing.

In an email requesting an interview, an Atlanta police spokesman told CBS46 they wouldn’t comment on Officer Jemes’ case because it’s a legal matter.