"The new appearance guidelines recognize the beauty in the diversity of all UPSers," UPS Chief Human Resources Officer Charlene Thomas said in the internal notice.
United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) is relaxing its strict employee appearance guidelines by lifting its restrictions regarding facial hair and natural Black hairstyles such as Afros and braids. According to internal memos that have been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, the shipping company said that the changes — which also include eliminating gender-specific rules — are part of an effort to "celebrate diversity rather than corporate restrictions." The new policy allows facial hair, saying beards and mustaches "are definitely acceptable as long as they are worn in a businesslike manner and don't create a safety concern," as well as what it calls natural hairstyles, "such as afros, braids, curls, coils, locs, twists, and knots."
UPS is ending its ban on Black hairstyles, like afros and locs, for employees who work w/ the public, reports @WSJ.— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 12, 2020
It will also eliminate gender-specific hair guidelines. In 2015, UPS was sued for religious discrimination for allegedly not promoting workers for having beards. pic.twitter.com/Mk9cl637St
"The new appearance guidelines recognize the beauty in the diversity of all UPSers," UPS Chief Human Resources Officer Charlene Thomas said in the internal notice. "We know that UPSers will always be respectful of our culture, our customers, and our co-workers when deciding how they show up and act on the job." The changes come shortly after UPS hired its first female chief executive, Carol Tomé, and the anti-racist protests earlier this year which forced US companies to reevaluate how they approach racial issues.
UPS will allow drivers to grow beards after years of strict rules on personal appearance. The delivery giant said it wanted to make employees "feel comfortable, genuine and authentic."https://t.co/KhcB0fij1H— NPR (@NPR) November 12, 2020
UPS is implementing unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion training "to ensure our actions match our values," Tomé said on a recent earnings call. The delivery giant said that the policy shift was implemented after Tomé listened to feedback from employees who said the changes would make them more likely to recommend UPS as an employer. "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 company said in a statement.
UPS relaxes rules on employee appearance, including ending a ban on facial hair https://t.co/3cm1yKPWrO— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) November 11, 2020
UPS has long faced criticism for its strict appearance guidelines, which dates back to its founder James Casey who expected all employees to meet appearance standards. "Casey’s personal code of neatness was a discipline, a discipline he required of his managers, and through them, the entire UPS enterprise," Greg Niemann wrote in Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS. However, these rules eventually ran the company into legal trouble when it had to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over the prohibition on beards and hair length.
It’s 2020: @UPS announced its 525,000 employees will now be allowed to wear natural Black hairstyles like afros & braids. Workers will also be allowed to have facial hair!— Amaka Ubaka (@AmakaUbakaTV) November 12, 2020
The changes come w/ the company’s first female chief executive in its 113 year history (Carol Tomé) #7news pic.twitter.com/s3xvAOtR5q
"The EEOC alleged... UPS failed to hire or promote individuals whose religious practices conflict with its appearance policy and failed to provide religious accommodations," said the EEOC at the time, reports CNN. The commission also alleged that "UPS segregated employees who maintained beards or long hair in accordance with their religious beliefs into non-supervisory, back-of-the-facility positions without customer contact." UPS settled the lawsuit by paying a $4.9 million fine and enter into a consent decree with the EEOC to allow greater freedom to wear beards and long hair by those who filed for a religious exemption.
UPS relaxes its restrictions on natural Black hairstyles https://t.co/QR5G2fNXu6— CBS News (@CBSNews) November 11, 2020
Lucinda Duncalfe, founder and CEO of AboveBoard.com, an executive hiring firm that promotes diversity, praised Wednesday's announcement as "great news" for addressing a broader problem of unconscious bias that was reflected in the rules. "These policies are hold-overs from a different era and reflect the biases that hold back progress, and performance," she said. "It never made sense that 'natural' hair was impermissible." Meanwhile, Teamsters union — which represents nearly 300,000 UPS employees — welcomed the change to the appearance guidelines. "We are very pleased about it," said Teamsters' statement. "The union contested the previous guidelines as too strict numerous times over the years through the grievance/arbitration process and contract negotiations. We have proposed neatly trimmed beards during several previous national negotiations."