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UPS Pays $4.9 Million For Alleged Religious Discrimination

In July 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against United Parcel Service (UPS), claiming that the company discriminated against its employees based on their religion. Specifically, the federal agency took issue with UPS’s strict appearance policy that it believed “operated to exclude Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, and other religious groups from equal participation and advancement in the workforce for many years.” Under the policy, male employees in supervisory positions or those who interact with the company’s customers (including delivery drivers) were precluded from wearing beards or growing their hair below collar length. According to the EEOC, UPS failed to hire or promote employees whose religious practices conflicted with this appearance policy and did not provide accommodation for those employees. It was alleged that employees in violation of the appearance policy were put in positions that were non-supervisory and hidden from customer view.
Title VII prohibits discrimination against employees because of their religious beliefs and requires employers to accommodate the religious beliefs of their employees unless they can demonstrate undue hardship. The EEOC engaged in its required conciliation attempts before filing a lawsuit but the parties were unsuccessful.
In its statement on the settlement, UPS denies any wrongdoing and stated that it resolved the matter to avoid long and expensive court proceedings. In addition to the $4.9 million to be paid to the workers, UPS has also agreed to amend its religious accommodation process and begin nationwide training for its managers, supervisors, and human resources employees. It will also publicize the availability of religious accommodations on its internal and external websites as well as provide reports to the EEOC on its accommodation of religious practices.