Global Medical Response, an ambulance company headquartered in Greenwood Village, has been accused by a federal agency of discriminating against paramedics who are Jewish, Baptist, Sikh and pagan through its no facial hair policy.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued GMR and its 134 subsidiaries on Sept. 29 in a Denver federal court. The lawsuit alleges GMR has refused to grant religious and medical exemptions to its beard policy, in violation of antidiscrimination laws.
“Applicants and employees who must maintain facial hair for medical or religious reasons are not hired or are discharged if they refuse to shave,” the lawsuit claims.
A spokesman for GMR said the company, which employs nearly 40,000 people and operates 8,600 ambulances around the world, doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
The EEOC’s lawsuit tells the stories of several former GMR employees. Ravinder Singh, a Sikh man, was an EMT in Connecticut until 2020, when he was fired for not shaving his beard. Robert Glaspy, a Baptist, was fired from his job as a paramedic in 2019 for the same reason.
Menachem Abramowitz, an Orthodox Jew, was refused a job with GMR’s Connecticut subsidiary in 2020, according to the lawsuit. And James Richard, a Nordic pagan paramedic in Tennessee, was fired for refusing to shave his beard in 2019, the EEOC alleges.
One man, Jamaal Bryant, wore a beard for religious and medical reasons. His religion, Hebrew Israelite, requires men to wear beards. And his medical condition, pseudofolliculitis barbae, is a persistent irritation caused by shaving. While working for GMR, he had to painfully shave his beard in violation of his religious beliefs, according to the EEOC’s lawsuit.
Two other GMR paramedics with pseudofolliculitis barbae were told to shave their beards, according to the EEOC. One did and the other was fired for not doing so.
GMR has an anti-beard policy because its employees must use N95 respirators and those only fit on people who are clean shaven, according to the EEOC. But the agency says there are other respirators that can be worn with beards that GMR should use.
In 2020, GMR — then called American Medical Response — settled an EEOC lawsuit that alleged it refused to give a pregnant paramedic a reprieve from heavy work and told her to take unpaid time off instead. That settlement cost GMR about $162,000.