UPS settles EEOC religious discrimination lawsuit for $4.9 million

UPS drivers head en masse to their routes. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

UPS drivers head en masse to their routes. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

UPS has agreed to a $4.9 million settlement in a religious discrimination lawsuit over a policy that requires male employees who deal with customers to cut their hair and shave their beards.

In the federal lawsuit filed in 2015 against the Sandy Springs-based shipping giant, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission had alleged that UPS discriminated against a class of job applicants and employees by failing to hire those who have beards or long hair in accordance with their religious beliefs. It said the company refused to provide religious accommodations to them or unreasonably delayed their requests.

By settling the lawsuit, UPS is not admitting guilt and said it disagrees with the EEOC.

The company said it resolved the lawsuit because it chooses “to focus our energy on our hiring and promotion process, rather than lengthy and costly court proceedings.”

The settlement also calls for UPS to roll out a new religious accommodation process and request form, train employees on the new process, and meet with employees who filed claims to discuss any issues, as well as their career goals and advancement opportunities.

The $4.9 million will go into a claims fund for those who filed charges or claims.

It's not the first UPS settlement of an EEOC case. Last year, UPS agreed to pay $2 million to nearly 90 current and former UPS employees to resolve a 2009 EEOC disability discrimination lawsuit.

In 2013, UPS agreed to pay $70,000 to settle a religious accommodation lawsuit filed by the EEOC on behalf of a Jehovah's Witness employee who said he was fired a few days after he requested a schedule change to attend an annual religious service and his supervisor denied the request.

After the settlement of the latest EEOC case this month, UPS said it is “proud of the diversity of its workforce and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.”

EEOC religious discrimination lawsuit against UPS

Here’s what the EEOC said when it filed the lawsuit in 2015. The suit was settled this month.

“UPS has failed to hire or promote individuals whose religious practices conflict with its appearance policy and has failed to provide religious accommodations to its appearance policy. … For instance, a Muslim who applied for a driver helper position in Rochester, N.Y., who wears a beard as part of his religious observance, was told he had to shave to get the position. … Muslims and Christians at other facilities were forced to shave their beards in violation of their religious beliefs while they waited months or years for UPS to act on their requests for religious accommodation.”

“Similarly, a Rastafarian part-time load supervisor in Fort Lauderdale, who does not cut his hair as part of his religious beliefs, asked for an accommodation of the appearance policy. His manager told him he did not ‘want any employees looking like women on (his) management team.’”

UPS response:

“UPS is proud of the diversity of its workforce and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. … UPS willingly agreed to additional training and enhancements to our religious accommodation process because it is wholly consistent with the company’s deeply held diversity, inclusion and fair employment values.”