The United Parcel Service (UPS) on Tuesday (November 10) internally announced a new company policy that will allow employees to wear beards and natural Black hairstyles, according to CBS News. The company will also avoid gender-specific rules and will permit "businesslike" piercings. This policy shift will apply to all 528,000 of the company’s global employees, including delivery drivers.
"Our updates allow for a wider array of hairstyles, facial hair and other personal appearance preferences, and are another example of our people-led strategy to make UPS an even better place to work," the company said in a statement obtained by CBS.
CBS reports that this move has also inspired other companies to follow suit:
Other U.S. companies have officially updated their policies to more inclusive hairstyles, including Hyatt and OneUnited Bank. Yet many workplaces still engage in explicit or more subtle forms of discrimination based on hair, Black Americans report.
A 2019 survey sponsored by Dove concluded that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of a perceived issue with their hair. The Black women who participated in the survey were 80% more likely to hide their natural hair in an effort to fit into a corporate environment. Another study from Duke University showed that Black women are less likely to land a job if they wear natural hairstyles, including braids and afros.
Dove executive Esi Eggleston Bracey launched the CROWN coalition, an alliance of corporate and community organizations that raises awareness around the pressures Black women face when trying to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards. "What happens is, your natural hair is one way and you think you have to change that to go into a work environment—because the view of what’s professional is different than what your natural state is," Bracey said.
According to CBS:
Wearing natural hairstyles has hurt Black Americans in other domains. In 2018, a New Jersey high school student was forced to cut off his dreadlocks to compete in a wrestling match. Last year, an 11-year-old cheerleader in Colorado was cut from a private cheer team because she didn’t wear her hair in a ponytail like her White and Latina teammates. And two Texas high school students were suspended from school earlier this year because they refused to cut off their dreadlocks.
States including California, New York and New Jersey now have laws that ban discrimination based on natural hair. California Governor Gavin Newsom is proud that his state was first in 2019 to acknowledge hair as an extension of one’s race, which is legally protected. "There’s a human element to this. We don’t want to diminish people, we don’t want to demean people … We have to own up to the sins of the past," Newsom said. "I hope that folks are paying attention all across this country."