UPS Allows Beards, Natural Hairstyles

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. November 16, 2020
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​United Parcel Service (UPS) has eased its personal appearance guidelines, no longer banning its workers from having facial hair and allowing natural Black hairstyles like Afros and braids, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The change is consistent with a national trend toward allowing Black employees to wear traditional hairstyles associated with their race, including dreadlocks (or locs), cornrows and twists. Several states and some cities prohibit hairstyle discrimination. We've gathered news on UPS's appearance guidelines and laws prohibiting hairstyle discrimination from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

UPS Explains Change

The policy change came soon after the hiring of Carol Tomé, UPS's first female CEO. UPS is implementing unconscious-bias, diversity and inclusion training "to ensure our actions match our values," she said recently during an earnings call. UPS stated that its policies were updated after Tomé listened to feedback from workers who said the changes would make them more likely to recommend UPS as an employer.

(The Wall Street Journal)

Gender-Specific Rules Scrapped

The company also said it was doing away with gender-specific rules. "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.

(The New York Times)

State and Local CROWN Acts Enacted

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Pa., recently passed Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Acts, prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyle and "protective and cultural hair textures and hairstyles." Other localities that have enacted CROWN Acts include Cincinnati; Montgomery County, Md.; New York City; and Toledo, Ohio. At least seven states have enacted their own CROWN Acts: California, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Washington. Effective training of front-line managers can help ensure that employers create and appropriately interpret neutral grooming standards.

(SHRM Online)

[SHRM's small business legal solution resource—SHRM LegalNetwork.]

California Enacted First State Law to Ban Hairstyle Discrimination

California was the first state to ban workplace discrimination based on hairstyle, though New York quickly followed. As stated in the California law, "hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for Black individuals." Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, who authored California's bill, said, "There are many cases of Black employees and applicants being denied employment or promotion, and even terminated, because they chose to wear a natural hairstyle." She added, "We are not talking about truly distracting hairstyles. We are speaking of groomed hairstyles, like my locs, that would, without question, fit an image of professionalism if bias or negative stereotypes were not involved."

(SHRM Online)

Federal Legislation Introduced

At the federal level, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., have introduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of hair texture or hairstyle under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Similar legislation is pending in numerous states.

(SHRM Online)

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