UPS has lifted 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 revised rules allow beards and mustaches, which are “definitely acceptable as long as they are worn in a businesslike manner and don’t create a safety concern.” Various hairstyles including “afros, braids, curls, coils, locs, twists and knots” are also permitted, and there are no specific gender guidelines — only a statement that employees “dress appropriately for your workday.”
The general public may be unaware that UPS, or United Parcel Service, has such restrictions, but in actuality, the company’s personal appearance guidelines — which are typically applied to workers who may potentially interact with customers rather than warehouse personnel or truck loaders — are both substantial and stringent.
Previously, beards were restricted, while male haircuts were not permitted to go longer than the collar. Medical and religious exemptions were possible, and currently, the UPS website states that “individuals who request religious accommodations to the UPS Uniform and Personal Appearance Guidelines will be granted a conditional approval.” According to The Wall Street Journal’s report, these exceptions were sometimes called “shaver waivers.”
Nevertheless, UPS ran into legal trouble with these guidelines, and the company paid $4.9 million in 2018 on the grounds of religious discrimination after several employees — including those of Muslim faith — argued that they were expected to shave in order to advance within the company.
UPS’s new rules do not include substantial changes to the company’s policy on tattoos, which are expected to be covered up, as well as piercings, which must be small and unobtrusive.
“The new appearance guidelines recognize the beauty in the diversity of all UPSers,” said UPS chief human resources officer Charlene Thomas in the memos. “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 came about thanks to UPS’s first female CEO, Carol Tomé, who took control of the company in June. According to the internal documents, Tomé “listened to feedback from employees and heard that changes in this area would make them more likely to recommend UPS as an employer.”