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Corrections Officers Seek Right to Don Skirts

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association (COBA), a union representing New York City correction officers, filed a Federal lawsuit against the city’s Department of Corrections over a department mandate that requires female officers to wear pants and not skirts.

Corrections officers defended their policy, arguing that skirts prevent officers from running as quickly as they could in pants and may also interfere with other protective equipment, jeopardizing the safety of its female officers. Known as Directive 2270, the policy went into effect on July 1. So far, three officers have been suspended for failing to comply with the directive.

COBA argued that the dress restriction is unconstitutional because it interferes with some fundamentalist Christian women’s beliefs. “How is it you allow other religions to wear dreadlocks or kufis or yarmulkes and then say to a Christian woman that you are not allowed to wear a dress,” said COBA president Norman Seabrook.

In related news, a Mobile, Alabama police officer was fired when she refused to wear pants while working as a patrol officer. Lark Huber, who belongs to the Church of God in Jesus Christ, believes that it is wrong for women to wear pants, which she deems “men’s” clothing.

Huber’s supervisors say that Huber was allowed to wear skirts while a member of the detective unit, and was asked to adopt pants only after she was transferred to the patrol unit, which requires a mandatory uniform. The department offered to reassign Huber into other positions which did not require her to wear pants, but Huber refused, in part because these alternatives did not pay as well as a patrol position would.

The conservative Rutherford Institute is assisting Huber in an appeal of her dismissal. Huber’s counsel, Lynn Miller, will argue that her client was a victim of religious persecution. “Our theory is if it’s not an undue hardship to transfer her out of patrol, they should transfer into a plainclothes position rather than into one in which she would be required to take a substantial reduction in pay.”

Sources:

Nando Times and New York Times - August 26, 1999]

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