Florida Family Association sent out several email alerts that asked people to send emails to encourage the Ohio Governor and Civil Rights Commissioners to uphold Columbus Police Department's "values neutral dress code" for law enforcement officers. More than fifteen thousand (15,000) people sent emails to each commissioner and the governor.
The last email alert, sent out on August 1, 2016 prompted the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to send a copy of their July 28, 2016 Letter of Determination regarding CAIR-OH’s complaint to Florida Family Association.
Subject: RE: Ismahan Isse CAIR complaint
Date: Tue, 2 Aug 2016 12:47:59 +0000
From: Payton, Michael
To: David Caton
August 2, 2016
Dear Mr. Caton,
Upon the conclusion of our investigation, our Commissioners voted 5-0 on July 28th to dismiss the charge of discrimination based on No Probable Cause to believe the law has been violated. I will send you an electronic copy of our Letter of Determination in this matter in a separate email today.
G. Michael Payton
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission Letter of Determination:
• Affirms the Columbus Police Department’s values neutral dress code.
• Reports the Muslim cadet never asked to wear a hijab and was therefore not terminated for such issue.
• Denies all discrimination allegations made by CAIR-OH affidavit.
Portions of the Ohio Civil Rights Commission Letter of Determination are provided below.
“On August 20, 2015, Charging Party, Council on American Islamic Relations, Ohio (CAIR-OH), filed an affidavit with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission alleging that Respondent, City of Columbus, Division of Police, engaged in unlawful discriminatory practices. Specifically, CAIR-OH filed a sworn charge alleging a female police cadet, Ismahan Isse, was forced to resign because the police division did not allow her to wear her religiously mandated hijab (headscarf) while on duty. CAIR-OH concurrently alleges Respondent placed a hiring ban on persons who wear a religious headscarf and therefore discriminated against Muslim women due to their sex and religion.
Despite repeated attempts, the Commission was unable to interview a material witness, Ms. Isse, who refused to cooperate with Commission personnel. Based upon the investigation, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission finds that there is insufficient information to establish that Respondent unlawfully discriminated against Ms. Isse on the basis of sex or religion.
While witnesses did confirm Ms. Isse expressed concern over the inability to wear a hijab, there is no evidence to suggest Ms. Isse was terminated, constructively discharged or even resigned specifically because Respondent did not allow here to wear the headscarf while in police uniform. Without Ms. Isse’s direct testimony, the Commission must credit Respondent’s witnesses on this point. The witnesses stated Ms. Isse never asked to wear a hijab and did not seek a reasonable accommodation of her religious beliefs. Each witness confirmed Ms. Isse resigned prior to becoming a sworn police officer, citing purely personal reasons for the resignation.
CAIR-OH also alleges Respondent placed a ban on hiring Muslim women. The Commission’s investigation confirms Respondent does – in fact – hire Muslim women, which is most readily evidenced by the fact that Respondent hired Ismahan Isse. Therefore, the Commission’s investigation uncovered no evidence to substantiate there is a ban on hiring Muslim women.
The Commission also examined general allegations concerning the alleged discriminatory application of Respondent’s policies. While Respondent did confirm that Ms. Isse was not permitted to wear a headscarf, there is no evidence to suggest she was targeted due to her sex or religion. Respondent is a para-military organization. Respondent has a neutral “Professional Appearance Policy” (Policy No. 11.01). This policy provides that division personnel shall only wear authorized uniform garments. Policy, p.1) Deviations from the Appearance Policy must be approved in advance through the chain of command. (Policy, p.5) Further, Respondent’s witnesses confirmed that religious insignia, such as head coverings, may not be visible on sworn officers while in uniform. Respondent states deviations from the Appearance Policy are categorically denied. Sworn peace officers are mandated to wear designated organization-issued uniforms and emblems for uniformity, safety, and neutrality, which Respondent emphasizes is germane to the position held, despite an employee’s sex or religious affiliation.
The Commission could find no evidence suggesting employees of one religious preference are favored over another. Nor could the Commission find evidence that Respondent treats males differently from females. There is no evidence to suggest that Ms. Isse requested to wear the hijab as an accommodation of her religious beliefs and was consequently denied. Nor is there evidence to suggest Respondent allowed non-Muslim peace officers the ability to wear headscarves, hats or head coverings, other than those defined in the Professional Appearance Policy, which are permitted only for tactical or weather-related purposes.
Based on the investigation conducted in this matter, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission has determined that there is NO PROBABLE CAUSE for the Commission to issue an administrative complaint accusing Respondent of an unlawful discriminatory practice. Consequently, the Commission hereby orders that this matter be DISMISSED.
"We believe that Florida Family Association’s email campaign influenced the Ohio Civil Rights Commission decision in the Columbus Police hijab case." Notes David Caton, President of Florida Family Association. "The 15,000 emails that our supporters sent to each commissioner defending the values neutral dress code certainly helped. Had CAIR’s hijab discrimination complaint, which was lauded by local media, gone unchallenged political correctness may have influenced a different outcome."
Florida Family Association thanks everyone who sent emails to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. Your emails gave eyes to this issue and validated the police department’s important values neutral dress code.