Firefighter alleges hair discrimination

Jan. 9, 2012 at 3:11 PM

MONTEMILAR, France, Jan. 9 (UPI) -- A French firefighter's lawsuit against his department alleges he was targeted for discrimination because of his beard and long hair in a ponytail.

Gilles Florent, 50, said most of his colleagues in Montemilar, in the Drome region, have very short hair or shaved heads, but there is no official policy regarding hair length or facial hair, Radio France Internationale reported Monday.

Florent, a 35-year veteran, said bosses no longer allow him to go on calls, train other firefighters or take part in the yearly calendar photo shoot.

"There is no longer anything left for me in a profession that has been my passion since I was a young boy," he told daily newspaper Aujourd'hui en France.

Col. Olivier Bolzinger, head of the Drome fire service, said Florent's appearance since 2010 has caused problems.

"As an officer, he ought to set an example and a 2-month-old beard and long hair are not well looked upon," he said. "Firefighters have a certain image and ethical code to uphold."

However, other fire officials said Florent's appearance is not a problem and the penalties imposed on him were a result of his refusal to move to other stations in the department.

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