Things That Matter

UPS Finally Lifts Its Discriminatory Ban on Natural Black Hairstyles

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

UPS is finally catching up with the times and making some broad-ranging changes to various parts of its dress code.

The delivery company announced on Tuesday that it would lift its long-standing restrictions against natural Black hairstyles like locs, braids and afros. In addition, the company is lifting its policy on requiring drivers to be clean-shaven. The company also announced that it would no longer have gender-specific guidelines about dress and appearance–such as putting restrictions on the length of its drivers’ shorts based on their gender.

UPS released a statement saying, “these changes 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.”

Per UPS, their decision to finally overhaul the long-detested policy came from their CEO, Carol Tomé, who received feedback from employees that their appearance policies made them less likely to recommend UPS as an employer to potential employees. On a recent conference call, Tomé also announced that UPS would be providing trainings to employees on anti-racisms and how to identify and combat unconscious bias.

While the announcement is obviously a step in the right direction, the change still feels like a long time coming. Back in 2018, UPS was fined $4.9 million by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit alleged that UPS’s “strict appearance policy has operated to exclude Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, and other religious groups from equal participation and advancement in the workforce for many years.”

Natural hair discrimination by employees has recently been making national headlines after the CROWN Act was passed as law in seven states. The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) prevents employees from discriminating against Black people who wear their hair in natural or protective styles.

Again, while many people were happy with the news, the announcement nevertheless brought up some bittersweet feelings.

The fact that it took UPS so long to change what we now know is a blatantly racist policy doesn’t feel like it should be worth celebrating.

This Twitter user pointed out that UPS’s policies policing Black women’s hair is an example of the insidious nature of structural racism.

Why has it taken UPS 113 years to realize that its policies on employee appearances are discriminatory? Probably because they weren’t even realizing how much the policies penalized Black people for the hair that naturally grows out of their heads in the first place.

This person had a perfect response to people who say “It’s just hair.”

The fact that Black people have to change their natural appearance in order to be earn a living is inherently wrong.

This Twitter user shared his firsthand experience of being subjected to UPS discriminatory “appearance guidelines”.

We wonder how many other people with locs have similar stories. This man wasn’t even allowed to interview for the company–literal gatekeeping at its worst.

This person pointed out that UPS is not the only company to police their Black employees’ natural hair.

UPS is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a still a lot of work to do when it comes to dismantling the structural racism of many companies’ policies.

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