The United States prides itself as being a nation of freedom and tolerance. While some may dispute one or both of these claims, U.S. labor and employment laws make it illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee or potential employee due to his or her religious beliefs and related customs. However, despite these anti-discrimination laws, some employers have either explicit or implicit policies that prohibit employees from wearing certain types of clothing and from having facial hair.
The most recent company to be accused of religious discrimination is the multi-billion dollar global package delivery giant UPS. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim man who asserts that UPS’ company policies are discriminatory against certain religious groups and that the company fails to make religious accommodations as is required by law.
The plaintiff in the case is a Muslim man who, because of his religious beliefs, wears a beard. Upon inquiring about becoming a UPS driver, the man was told he would be required to shave his beard. When the man informed a UPS official that he wore a beard due to his religious beliefs, the official responded that "'God would understand' if he shaved it."
The plaintiff's claims are among several filed by former and current UPS employees who argue that UPS bans employees who have contact with members of the public from "wearing facial hair below the lip or growing hair below the collar." While the company contends it is welcoming and accommodating to employees of all religions, the accounts of current and former employees who were told things like "No haircut, no job," and "God will understand," prove otherwise.
An employee who has experienced discrimination in the workplace because he or she wears a headscarf, has a beard or engages in certain customs due to religious beliefs is advised to contact an employment attorney.
Source: San Francisco Gate, "EEOC: UPS discriminates with bans on beards, long hair," Tom Hays, July 15, 2015