After years of enforcing policies limiting how its employees may wear their hair, UPS has announced significant changes to rules regulating its drivers’ appearances.
According to a statement provided to Allure, UPS says it has made updates that “allow for a wider array of hairstyles, facial hair, and other personal appearance preferences.” Among the most celebrated of those updates is one that will allow employees to wear natural hairstyles. Until now, afros and braids were prohibited.
Furthermore, beards — whether worn for religious observance or personal reasons — will now be permitted. The previous limitation on facial hair had faced a legal challenge in the past. A lawsuit put forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had alleged that UPS “failed to hire or promote individuals whose religious practices conflict with its appearance policy,” according to 2018 EEOC statement, and segregated employees with beards into non-supervisory positions with no customer contact. (UPS settled and paid $4.9 million to a class of current and former applicants and employees identified by the EEOC and amended its religious accommodation process.) In 2015, NPR reports, an employee also launched a petition, which garnered more than 9,000 signatures, demanding that UPS allow employees to wear beards.
Additionally, CNN reports, company policy previously forced men who worked for UPS to wear their hair no longer than collar-length. In addition to this gender-specific restriction being lifted, new policies no longer use gendered language in regard to piercings, tattoos, and uniform length, the New York Times reports.
“These changes reflect our values and desire to have all UPS employees feel comfortable, genuine, and authentic while providing service to our customers and interacting with the general public,” the UPS statement reads.
This news comes less than six months after UPS instated its first woman CEO, Carol Tomé, whose tenure began June 1. The decision is largely credited to her. “Our CEO, Carol Tomé, listened to feedback from employees and heard that changes in this area would make them more likely to recommend UPS as an employer,” the UPS statement says.
“Whenever corporate America embraces diversity, rather than banning or resisting it, it’s a good day,” says Diane Seltzer Torre, an employment attorney who practices in Maryland and Washington, D.C. She explains that this change is consistent with the CROWN laws that have been passed in states such as New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, and California. A federal version of the CROWN Act is also awaiting Senate approval after having passed in the House.
“A nationwide employer like UPS rescinding this ban not only ensures compliance with these laws and with similar laws that will surely be enacted in other states, but sends a message to its workforce that it welcomes people as they are,” Seltzer Torre adds. “Doing something a certain way just because that’s the way it’s always been done is not a valid excuse, and it’s exciting to see a large employer breaking with that outdated notion.”
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