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

UPS settles EEOC religious discrimination lawsuit for $4.9 million

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.”

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