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UPS to pay $4.9 million in religious discrimination settlement with the feds over beard and haircut policies

EEOC accuses the company of religious discrimination over its employee appearance standards

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The United Parcel Service has reached a settlement agreement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission following a three-year court battle over the company's policies on beards and hair length for male employees.

UPS admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to pay $4.9 million to end the government's lawsuit accusing the delivery service of violating the Civil Rights Act by discriminating against individuals who have facial hair below the lip or long hair for religious reasons.

What are the details?

In the lawsuit filed in 2015, the EEOC alleged that the UPS uniform policy — which requires male employees in contact with customers to keep their hair shorter than collar-length and prohibits beards — violates the rights of individuals whose religious practices conflict with the company's grooming standards.

Business Insider cited several instances outlined in the government's case. A Native American man who applied for a job with UPS in 2007 said he was told he would have to cut his long hair in order to be employed at the company. The original complaints filed with the EEOC came from two men who wear beards in accordance with their Muslim faith; one was an applicant, and another worked for UPS in Dallas.

As part of the settlement agreement, UPS agreed to pay $4.9 million in damages to applicants, current employees, and former employees affected by the policy. The company also agreed to publicize the right to religious accommodation on its websites, provide training to managers and supervisors, and provide the EEOC with periodic reports on its requests for religious accommodations, according to Law.com.

The EEOC's lead attorney for the case, Elizabeth Fox-Solomon, said in a statement hailing the settlement:

UPS's strict appearance policy has operated to exclude Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, and other religious groups from equal participation and advancement in the workforce for many years. We appreciate UPS's willingness to make real changes to its religious accommodation process to ensure equal opportunity for people of all backgrounds.

How did UPS respond?

UPS defended its practices in its own statement:

(The company) is proud of the diversity of its workforce and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. 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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