Package Delivery Giant Discriminated Against Class of Applicants and Employees Whose Religion Conflicted With the Company's Uniform and Appearance Policy, Agency Charged
NEW YORK - The nation's largest package delivery company violated federal law by discriminating against applicants and employees around the country whose religious practices conflicted with its uniform and appearance policy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
United Parcel Service, Inc. prohibits male employees in customer contact or supervisory positions from wearing beards or growing their hair below collar length. According to EEOC's complaint, since at least 2004, 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 at facilities throughout the United States.
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. He was also told, "God would understand" if he shaved his beard to get a job and that he could apply for a lower-paying job if he wanted to keep his beard. 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." Rastafarians in other parts of the country were denied positions or waited years for their requests for accommodation to be granted so they could finally get the position they sought.
Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religion and requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employee's sincerely-held religious beliefs unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York (EEOC v. United Parcel Service; Civil Action No. 1:15-cv-04141), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including modification of UPS's practices relating to religious accommodations. The suit also seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for aggrieved individuals.
"UPS has persistently enforced its appearance policy even when that policy conflicts with the religious beliefs of its applicants and employees," said Robert D. Rose, the regional attorney for EEOC's New York District Office. "No person should be forced to choose between their religion and a paycheck, and EEOC will seek to put an end to that longstanding practice at UPS."
"Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of the Commission's top priorities," noted Kevin Berry, district director for the New York District Office.
EEOC Trial Attorney Elizabeth Fox-Solomon of the agency's Buffalo Local Office added, "Freedom of religion is one of the core principles of this country. For far too long, UPS has erected unnecessary barriers to the free exercise of religion by its applicants and employees."
According to company information, UPS is the nation's largest package delivery company, operating in every state in the country. The Atlanta-based company employs over 300,000 people nationwide, with additional operations around the globe.
Individuals who believe they may have been denied or delayed a position at UPS because of their religion or who have any information that would be helpful to EEOC's suit against UPS should contact EEOC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.
The New York District Office of EEOC oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.