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What the UPS discrimination lawsuit means for employers

Workers in California may be interested to learn that the United Parcel Service just settled a case with the U.S. Equal Employment Commission for $4.9 million. The case revolved around religious discrimination in which UPS was accused of not accommodating its employees' religious beliefs.

Specifically, the EEOC claimed that UPS was neither hiring nor promoting individuals whose religious practices forced them to deviate from the company's appearance policy. This made it a matter of religious discrimination. For example, UPS had strict guidelines stating that its male employees who are in supervisory positions or interact directly with customers should have clean-shaven faces and relatively short hair. Unfortunately, this created a problem for Muslims who preferred to keep their beards, Native Americans who chose to maintain long hair and Rastafarians who grew long dreadlocks. Consequently, UPS hired these individuals into non-supervisory roles, forcing them to work in back-of-house positions where they wouldn't interact with customers.

The EEOC claims that these rules violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from being prejudicial against certain employees based on religion. Legally speaking, employers may need to make exceptions to their dress codes and appearance policies in order to accommodate individuals practicing different religious beliefs.

At the end of the day, employers may want to learn from UPS's example. Employers could interact with their employees to make sure that their religious needs are met as best as possible. If issues of discrimination arise, a worker might benefit from reaching out to an experienced attorney who could suggest legal action.

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