'No haircut, no job': UPS pays $4.9 million over religious discrimination allegations at its facilities

Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty ImagesUPS.
  • UPS will pay $US4.9 million to employees and former employees who were “allegedly subjected to unlawful employment practices on the basis of religion,” according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case.
  • UPS’ uniform policy required that male employees who interact with customers keep their hair above collar length and not have beards.
  • Former UPS employees said that they were told to shave their beards in accordance to company policy, even though their faith required them to keep their hair and beards uncut.

Three years after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused UPS of unlawful employment practices, the nation’s largest package delivery company has agreed to pay $US4.9 million to employees who were discriminated against at work.

According to UPS uniform policy, male employees who interact with customers cannot have hair longer than collar-length or have facial hair below their lips. However, long hair and beards are ok for back-of-facility positions.

That meant UPS employees who practice Islam, Rastafarianism, Orthodox Christianity, and other faiths were limited in just how much they could advance through the company, according to the EEOC.

“For far too long, applicants and employees at UPS have been forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs and advancing their careers at UPS,” said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “The EEOC filed this suit to end that longstanding practice at UPS, and we are extremely pleased with the result.”

Meanwhile, UPS claims no wrongdoings.

“UPS is proud of the diversity of its workforce and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the company said in a statement. “While UPS disagrees with assertions made by the EEOC, the company resolved this lawsuit because we choose to focus our energy on our hiring and promotion process, rather than lengthy and costly court proceedings.”


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Within the next three weeks, the EEOC said UPS is required to post a new online process on how employees can seek religious accommodations for the uniform policy. The EEOC has also mandated that UPS revamp its training policies among supervisors to ensure the UPS Religious Accommodation Process is implemented.

That should ensure some of the incidents described in the EEOC’s original case don’t happen again.

A Native American applicant who sought a job in 2007 as a receiver at UPS in Stockton, California wore his hair long as part of his religious observances. He was told, “No haircut, no job.”

A UPS driver in San Francisco submitted a request for accommodation because his Muslim faith required him to wear a beard. As the EEOC case described:

While awaiting UPS’s evaluation of his request, he often shaved his beard, against his religious beliefs, so that he could work. When he chose not to shave, UPS sent him home without pay. Two years after his initial request, UPS granted his accommodation, but instructed him that he would be required to reapply if, at any time, he was assigned a new supervisor.

Bilal Abdullah, who applied for a UPS driver job, and Muhammad Farhan, who worked for UPS in Dallas, filed the original charges with the EEOC. Both men are Muslim and wear a beard in accordance with their faith.

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