Sandy Springs-based UPS is relaxing its longstanding policy restricting employees' facial hair and certain hairstyles.

The famously regimented company has long had very strict rules governing the appearance of its drivers and other employees who work with customers. It previously said men’s hair should not extend below the collar, and it did not allow beards.

But now, it will permits beards and mustaches “worn in a businesslike manner," according to a memo to employees, which was reported by The Wall Street Journal.

UPS declined to release specifics about its old policy, but the memo on the new guidelines says the company now welcomes “natural hair styles, such as afros, braids, curls, coils, locs, twists and knots.”

The memo says UPS employees are still “expected to maintain a neat, clean and businesslike appearance that is appropriate for their job and workplace," and that hair and beard length must not create a safety concern.

The changes to its guidelines “allow for a wider array of hair styles, facial hair and other personal appearance preferences," the company said in a written statement.

They also “reflect our values and desire to have all UPS employees feel comfortable, genuine and authentic while providing service to our customers and interacting with the general public," the statement continued.

According to the company, CEO Carol Tomé, who stepped into the role earlier this year, “listened to feedback from employees and heard that changes in this area would make them more likely to recommend UPS as an employer.”

The Teamsters union, while announcing a new five-year labor contract with UPS Canada, said the loosening of the policy on facial hair brings the company “into the 21st century by finally allowing drivers to have neat and well-trimmed beards.”

UPS also still makes exceptions to its rules that conflict with religious beliefs and practices, or that complicate medical conditions.

The shipping company in 2015 was sued for religious discrimination and, in 2018, agreed to a $4.9 million settlement over a policy that required male employees who deal with customers to cut their hair and shave their beards. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the suit alleged UPS had discriminated against a class of job applicants and employees who have beards and long hair in accordance with their religious beliefs. The settlement called for UPS to roll out a new religious accommodation process.

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