EEOC Sues UPS for Rastafarian Denied Job Due to Beard

March 31, 2006 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) for religious discrimination on behalf of a Rastafarian denied a driver helper position because of his beard.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that the lawsuit alleges that UPS required Ronnis Mason to shave his beard to be hired for a position helping with customer deliveries and requiring customer contact. Mason wears his beard in observance of his religion, Rastafarianism.

The suit claims that Mason told UPS he could not shave his beard, and that UPS told him he could then only apply for an “inside,” lower paying position that would not have contact with the public. The EEOC alleges that by refusing to accommodate Mason’s religion and by not permitting him to work as a driver helper, UPS interfered with Mason’s employment opportunities and ability to make a better living in the higher-paid position he sought, according to the news report.

UPS denies the allegations, saying Mason never informed anyone of his religious beliefs nor did he request an accommodation for his beliefs. The company said Mason left the orientation for the driver helper position, which happens before the completion of the application process, after applicants were informed of UPS’ appearance and grooming guidelines.

In a statement, UPS said, “In fact, no one at UPS was aware of his religion until he filed this complaint. Moreover, UPS did not deny this individual a position – he never completed the application process. Because he failed to complete the application process, UPS never had the opportunity to hire him.”

UPS said it has personal appearance and grooming guidelines for all its drivers and employees who interact with customers, but it also maintains a policy of accommodation for religious beliefs.

Rastafarianism is a Jamaican religion with about 1 million adherents that is often associated with reggae music and ritual marijuana smoking.