Court fight over fireman's beard

Gilles Format - screengrab from M6 news

Officer sues bosses for discrimination after he is stopped from wearing uniform for not showing a good example

A BEARDED firefighter is taking his employers to court for "discrimination, harassment and abuse of power" as they have stopped him going out on alerts, and banned him from wearing his uniform.

Gilles Florent, 50, has been a firefighter officer at Montélimar in the Drôme for 31 years - "since I was a boy" - and said that since he grew a beard and ponytail he has been victimised.

He had only just returned to work after illness in March 2010 when he was told to come into work in civilian clothes and not his uniform. He said: "That implied I had no operational or administrative duties because I was not showing a good image of firefighters."

Florent added that in October he was given a warning to cut his hair or face a cut in pay for not carrying out his duties.

His lawyer said there was no regulation stipulating that firefighters had to have short hair and added that more and more women were coming in and they did not have to "shave their heads". He said for several months they had tried to find an amicable solution but the hierarchy would have none of it.

Senior Drôme officer colonel Olivier Bolzinger told Le Parisien Lieutenant Florent's appearance was a part of the problem. "As an officer, there is a duty to show an example - a two-month beard and long hair is frowned upon. Firefighters have a certain image and moral code to respect."

He added to Le Dauphiné: "We can't understand it. We worked with him when he was ill and eased him back into work with part-time working. As far as the beard and hair goes, no, there's no rule, it's a value that we carry and that one should respect when one is an officer."

However, he said there were other problems. Florent had passed the exams to become a captain "but refused to transfer to another station - which is a regulation known to everyone here". Col Bolzinger added: "I offered him several choices in the department, but not at the station where he has always been based and he refused them all."

Picture: Gilles Florent on M6 news

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