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HR Soapbox

Close Shave: Is it Legal to Set a No-Beard Policy for Male Staff?

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Patrick DiDomenico

by on
in HR Soapbox

Anyone watching the Sasquatch convention baseball playoffs this past month noticed that most of the Boston Red Sox players looked like they hadn’t shaved since Spring Training. The Sox rode their unkempt culture all the way to a World Series title.

That’s got some leaders wondering ... can we use that same beard power in our organizations?

Red Sox fan and Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey guffawed on TV yesterday that, “I’m recommending to the (Obama) administration to have everyone working on the health care website to grow beards until we get that right.”

While some employers make take a liking to such beard bonding in the workplace, others demand a clean-shaven culture, much to their employees’ dismay (especially in Boston this week).

So can your organization set a no-beard policy for its male employees?

Basically, private employers do have the right to set their own dress and grooming codes. That can include setting limits on employees’ facial hair, unless the employees cite:

Religious reasons: EEOC regulations say that, unless it would be an “undue hardship,” employers must reasonably accommodate their employees’ religious beliefs and practices. The EEOC says that can include “wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard).”

A New Jersey Lexus dealership faced a lawsuit a couple years ago when it told a sales candidate he was “just what they wanted,” but could he please go without the beard and turban? He said no and the dealership said “no” to the job.

Medical reasons: You also must allow beards if they have a medical reason for not shaving. For example, some black men are more likely to suffer from a condition in which shaving causes skin irritation and bumps.

Even in these cases, you still may be able to set a legal no-beard policy if you can show that it's necessary to maintain workplace safety (such as needing to wear a respirator that fits snuggly around the employee’s mouth and nose).

Recent case: When a new CEO took over a California security company, he set a no-beard policy for his security guards (those with religious or medical reasons were exempted). But Joseph, who wore a goatee for years, refused to shave. He was fired and sued, claiming he had a constitutional right to express himself through facial hair.

Result? Joseph had a bad hair day in court as the judge threw out his complaint. The court said different rules apply in the public sector, where, under some circumstances, a man’s facial hair could be seen as an expression of rebelliousness that could amount to protected political expression. No such right exists for private-sector workers. (Simpson v. Charles Drew University, 2013)

Final notes: Be consistent in your policy. Also, even if you must allow certain employees to wear beards, your grooming policy can still require that all facial hair be neatly trimmed—something that was obviously not required of Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes or the rest of the scraggly band of Red Sox brothers.

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

John marcus beane May 14, 2019 at 6:02 am

I wonder if everyone would fell the same if companies changed there policies to a no hair policy that required everyone to shave their heads?


David March 20, 2019 at 5:49 am

I work for a big retail company.We all wear nice suits. My store manager has a nonfacial rule for his store, but employees policy handbook states that you can have facial hair as long as it is trimmed and clean and neat.
My own store managers boss has a goatee.
I just grew a neat small trimmed beard while on medical leave, now I’m not sure if Inwant to shave it before going back to work in a few days. Do I have a case?


Beavis December 31, 2018 at 12:17 am

Geez, what a bunch of whining babies. If you work for a private company and the dress code says no beards find a new job.


Zoltan Kodaly December 24, 2018 at 9:21 am

This is a discussion of Men’s Rights as well as Women’s Rights, i.e. Human Rights- however just as I do not and should not comment on women’s issues, women that cannot grow a beard should refrain from commenting on a primarily beard growing adult issue. If you are a woman and making comments about this subject, we will all now assume you have read this and are a member of the elite set of women capable of growing a beard or moustache and will heed your sage advice more than the women who commented previously who may be among those without beards.

To continue posting commentary, if you are a woman, you should post a link to a photo of yourself with your beard or day’s growth of stubble so that your comments will be read.

If you refuse to do so, we will have to ignore you as being a Troll.


Zoltan Kodaly December 24, 2018 at 8:52 am

I shave my face everyday, and only allow a nearly trimmed moustache on my face. My ancestors helped free this country from British oppresion during the American Revolutionary War (the Hussars). I have never once been asked to remove my moustache for work. Nobody with a neatly trimmed moustache should be disrespected for either honoring their ancestors and customs in a continuous line of moustaches on men for fourfold more years than this country has existed, or for the personal choice of growing a moustache or beard, as men who are free can and do.

Men are human mammals that for the most part grow facial hair. Anyone offended by facial hair is offended by the human form and should be chastened about respecting people’s basic human rights to Be. One would Never dare suggest to their great grandmother that her face was Less beautiful with years of experience and love because of a bit of facial hair. Facial hair is not a crime, it is a fact. In my case it is also part of my culture. As much as Alpine Culture is seen as being unusual or different here, the American culture of wearing tshirts and sweatpants in public may be seen as being tacky or disrespectful elsewhere. Newsflash: It Is. The stark contrast of a sun-avoiding pale and shaven childlike nearly expressionless baby-face on a man’s body is noticed from a great distance when combined together with the american uni-class uniform of videogame t-shirt and sweatpants is just as unseemly when visiting a sanctuary as when touring a high precision factory. At the very least dress like an adult if one isnt going to grow a moustache, or wear clothes that werent mass produced in a mere 5 sizes.

When in Rome do as the Romans do. This is a good rule to follow, however one’s culture should not demand total submission if it removes the basic human rights of freedom and self expression. Facial hair exists. Those who are disgusted by it have immature and overly-sensitive natures unaccustomed to other cultures and peoples. They should be viewed as counting among those in need of counseling to overcome their anxieties. Perhaps petting a goat might help them instead? If it isn’t too scary.


Phil Berry October 23, 2018 at 1:06 pm

What gets me is almost daily I find a long hair on or around the fryers. How is that ok but men can have a short beard. I am about to start a job at At&t and Wendy’s is asking me to still work for them some. It’s not an option since At&t has no policies on beards. I’m saying goodbye to Wendy’s.


Matthew A Cudmore September 3, 2018 at 8:24 am

Shave your beards, you lazy, entitled a-holes. You do not have a right to work wherever you work… You were given the privilege of doing so. Literally nobody cares about your “freedom of expression.”


TesticularBeard December 15, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Is it okay to have dreadlocks hanging from your nutsack that poke out your pantlegs


Christine November 6, 2017 at 9:25 pm



TesticularBeard December 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm

You’re a 300lb beast who hasn’t seen her own belly button in 15 years.. kill yourself *****


MichaelBNFree April 24, 2018 at 12:41 am

Pounds of makeup or any at all is not normal or natural but beards…are both Natural and Normal. Wake up and drag a blade across your face!! No fun and try it after a blemish or nick, just openes back up.


Rudi Trollip November 6, 2017 at 2:55 am

To tell a man to shave is as good to tell a women not to wear make up,same thing.Its not fair for a company to tell a man to shave if he wants to wear a beard.A beard is a God given lifestyle to men and no company has the right to ask me to remove my beard!!!!!!


Matthew A Cudmore September 3, 2018 at 8:21 am

Beards are unkempt, dirty and, unless you actually maintain it (which pretty much nobody does), it makes a company look cheap. It is perfectly reasonable to expect men to shave and dress appropriately.


Sam Iam January 24, 2019 at 11:47 am

Eat a bag of dicks Matthew. Sincerely, All dudes with beards


Rudi Trollip November 6, 2017 at 2:52 am

To tell a man to shave is as good to tell a women not to wear make up,same thing.Its not fair for a company to tell a man to shave if he wants to wear a beard.


I AM THE BEAST SSSOTLOHIEFMJN October 19, 2017 at 11:25 am

My house, my rules. ABC, A is All American, Absolute, Authoritarian i.e.Upright men, Clean Shaved and free under Christ. The center men are total shaved, the left in charge of MORALE the right is in charge of “E”MORAL, with E for Elite. We have the Butch and Spike, the boy and the man, it is Bravo & Alpha,the harcocks and hardfists. All them other boys are shaved off us, we disapprove them save in cases of medical necessity but not in religion vs non-religion and so understand why men shave. Men of Judeo Christian law and faith do shave because Christ Jesus having fulfilled his oath and being a Nazarite did shave and put the hair on the fire of the altar. His oath was and is the ultimate oath so we make not any oath like unto him and we shave and cast the har away. We are not able to approach that altar.
We are not you and you are not us. Go to your own and be removed from us.


Nick the Enforcer September 17, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Safety industry issues aside as well as in food service or manufacturing where it is an sanitary issue for the product being produced it smacks of control. I have a friend who interviewed and was offered a managers position with a family-owned company. They own truck stops, they require all men to shave their beard/goat off regardless of the length or style. Oddly if you are ‘transitioning’ from one gender or another and a guy decides to wear a dress to work and pee in the ladies commode that is protected and ‘ok’. It is also ok to have piercings and tatts BUT a neatly trimmed goat is grounds for termination….I just dont get it. Who are you gonna offend with a goat at a truck stop? Sounds like selective control, as Americans we should guard our independance! If some guy feels the need to wear a dress of lipstick who cares, sure its weird and possibly off-putting but its their choice. Am I a fan of tatts, not really but once again your choice. I’d be way more concerned about having a hand washing policy in place and enforced b/c folks spread sickness by not washing the filth from their hands then handling my cheeseburger. :)


Eddie July 28, 2017 at 7:17 pm

I am in the middle of a situation. I work at a grocery store, where I don’t have to wear any masks for safety reasons. I have grown my beard out and kept it neatly trimmed and groomed at all times. Nobody has ever told me anything about it until now. We got a new manager and he has told employees that facial hair is not acceptable. We need to shave it off. The thing is that in our break room, we have company policies posted on the wall. It says “mustaches and sideburns must be neatly trimmed at all times. No goatees allowed.” We mentioned this to him and he said “forget about that, I’m the new boss.” I have a nicely groomed and professional looking chinstrap/full beard, which is not a goatee. Can he make me shave even though I signed this paper when I was hired? Is this legal for him to go against company policy? Thanks in advance for any responses.


JLZink September 8, 2017 at 10:46 am

This sounds like a discussion you need to run up the flag poll to his boss. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t give any advice as to the legality of his actions. First off I am assuming you work for a chain grocery store, not a ma and pop store. If my assumption is correct, you should in a respectful manner approach his superior with your concern. Don’t be on the defensive, as that can cause for immediately dismissal of your concern by the higher ups. But present your case calmly and collectively and you might get some the desired result. Also make sure they know, you aren’t trying to get the manager in any trouble, you are just curious cause it has never been an issue before as long as you have stayed within the confines of the company policy.


Concerned July 12, 2017 at 6:44 am

On of associate managers at my husbands work. (Husband works at a restaurant) Is making men go and shave in the customers restaurant. I’m more pissed that this is unsanitary and more than likely a health code violations. Anyone know what to do


33Epifania May 18, 2017 at 8:11 am

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Adam April 30, 2017 at 8:33 am

I work for UPS and their shaving policy really bothers me. I have been working there for 2 years, and having to shave every 3 days, and looking like a 12 year old, is staring to really annoy me. I work in an office, i am always well groomed, clean shirts, pants, polished shoes etc. One time I decided to let my beard grow a little, and I was asked to shave it immediately. I don’t see how my beard, gives off a negative imagine. It was well mantained.


Tim McFarland February 19, 2017 at 11:50 pm

I am an engineer in heavy industry and have gotten used to essentially no allowed facial hair at work. In our case it’s a safety concern, we are around combustible materials everyday and we need to be able to use SCBA in an emergency. We have an absolutely zero tolerance policy at work on facial hair. With facial hair, we won’t get a tight seal and that could the difference between life and death. In my mind, this is the acceptable excuse to ban facial hair.


TesticularBeard December 15, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Your profile picture has facial hair.. you’re a liar.


Mike January 3, 2017 at 4:48 pm

I’ve had a beard on and off for 10 years, I know it’s a fad now, I’m actually glad about it because it has made the beard more mainstream and acceptable. I’m a VP of IT and I have a substantial beard, I understand it limits some companies I can work for but I don’t care because anyone who looks over someones talents because they have a beard isn’t a boss I would want to work for, or a company that would be a good culture for me any way. The beard is groomed neat, my hair is cut neat, I keep in shape and dress well. No HR manager could honestly tell me my appearance doesn’t look professional.

Men have beards, people need to start accepting that. We typically don’t have wisps here and there but full face and necks of hair that is very invasive to have to remove daily. To shave it daily so people can’t see that men grow beards (the horror) is really stupid to be honest.

Someone nailed it before, the razor companies created this insistence about everyone having to be shaven all the time. The thought of a man shaving every day 200 years ago would’ve been unheard of.


John October 28, 2016 at 8:59 am

The solution is simple: wear the beard at home, and take it off for work. Same thing with dress codes. If I want to wear a Beavis and Butthead t-shirt at home I will, but I’m certainly not going to wear it at the office. If that was a deal breaker, I’d get a job where I could wear my t-shirt. Want to keep your beard, get a job where it’s allowable to policy. Oh, and grow up :)


Matt Moss November 2, 2016 at 5:34 pm

or how bout you **** yourself


Mackie Jones November 11, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Would you argue that women’s long head hair is a part of them? Would you ask them to shave it because it is distracting or some other obscure reason? It’s not illegal to wear facial hair. I believe it’s the people who can’t grow a single hair on their face that are just sour, “If I can’t grow it, they can’t either! Hmph!”

Get real people. Beard shaving is part of emasculation politics shoving itself into trivial things that really don’t matter. Beards are trophies, and so are every normal woman’s long head hair. You wouldn’t ask them to shave their heads to conform with other standards, would you? The word sexist comes to mind on both accounts.


Allen Ferreira February 10, 2017 at 4:11 pm

I Second Matt Moss:

“of how bout you **** yourself”


Christine November 6, 2017 at 9:46 pm

nah its just really ugly and you cant see the persons feking face you moron, and theyre ugly and people who have them tend to act like a macho sht head


Anthony February 23, 2017 at 6:44 pm

How stupid can you be. As if a beard is like a shirt that you can just take of and put on again at your own leisure.


Kim April 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm

John. I’m a man that can’t have a beard at work because of safety. I work for the largest Lead Smelter in North America. I agree with restricting hair for the purpose of safety. Nothing more. If my company says they want me to shave my moustache even though it won’t make a respirator seal better, my company, who I respect, has crossed a boundary. I feel as a man, that one of the most manly thing men can do is allow their facial hair grow to the extent that it doesn’t interfere with safety on the job. Any more than that, the company can go **** themselves. I’m a man. I’m expressing my manlihood. If I’m not allowed to do so, it becomes a human rights issue. My right to freedom of thought and religion and expressing that in way that doesn’t harm others. I’m a feminist and a masculist. Rights for women AND man. I have a right to be the way I am. It’s the most natural thing for men to grow facial hair. So John, I strongly disagree with your point of view. You are clearly offensive by telling men to grow up over the beard issue. I’m not a young man. I hold a position of authority with my company. I stand up for my views even if unpopular. But I don’t put up with ****. Your view is accepted. Telling men to grow up…go **** yourself.


SteadyEddie September 30, 2018 at 8:47 pm

So typical – this response. First of all, i wear my beard due to my religious convictions – and NO, that is not within my employers purview. I am harrassed regularly about it because there is apolicy that states males are to be clean shaven. the problem is I DO NOT IDENTIFY AS A MALE. When are my rights going to finally be recognized? It seems to me that sexism is more alive and well as ever particulalry with the facial hair debate. I work with two women (who identify as women) who have substantial facial hair and nothing is said to either of them. Wonder where this stops? I think the truth is that it doesn’t…as long as men or males or those who look like “typical” males but identify otherwise are the victims of these policies, no one is going to come to the rescue. On the flip side, women who identify as women where i work can do just about anything they want, violate any and every policy regarding appearance and nothing is ever done no matter how many complaints are filed. It’s a real shame.


Dave October 26, 2016 at 3:49 pm

It is what it is. We are all victims of our cultural stereotypes. The only good news is long hair and beards are becoming more accepted over time. The ironic thing is the whole shaving thing was started by the razor companies in the early 1900s. Look at pictures from the late 1800s and ALL men had heavy beards or mustaches or both. If they didn’t it’s because they couldn’t grow one. Alone came the razor companies and convinced men they NEEDED to shave. And we are still suffering the effects today. Did you know the average woman didn’t shave her legs until the 1930s. Same thing, huge campaign by the razor companies. We’re all victims of advertising.


Chuck October 21, 2016 at 1:46 am

No company should have the RIGHT to tell me how I should look when I’m not at work…..And when I’m not at work .. I WEAR A GODDAMN BEARD!!!!!


Matt October 11, 2016 at 8:59 pm

**** shaving my beard off I’ve had it for 13 years had it before it became a fad take your clean shave policy and stick it up your clean shaved ***


Randal July 9, 2017 at 5:49 am

That’s what I’m saying. I’ve had mine for 20 years. I started a new job and they are wanting me to trim it down even tho it’s just trimming it down I’m pissed


Christine November 6, 2017 at 9:34 pm

sHAVE IT OFF YOU ******* *******


Christina B December 1, 2017 at 3:46 am

WOW!! Christine … you’re kind of a judgmental (or should I just say “mental”) ***-hat, aren’t you? I get the point prissy … you don’t care for facial hair I men. I think we all get it. Maybe you are just angry because you have to shave your beard? LMHO!! Calm down woman. My fella is a man of color who has NEVER shaved his beard because he get horrific shave bumps that hurt me just to look at!! I spend a good hour to an hour and a half picking ingrown hair out of a majority of those painful looking, sometimes puss filled bumps. So … quit judging!!


Michelle Hampton May 23, 2016 at 1:18 am

Using Virucidal Anti-Bacterial H-42 Clean Clippers can protect you from Perifolliculitis Keloidalis Occipitalis.


Steve February 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm

OK, it’s a religious thing! It’s my God given right to naturally grow my beard.

I have a short beard. I wear beard covers at work when necessary.


Rebel Beard December 11, 2015 at 7:36 pm

Growing a beard wouldn’t be rebellious if it wasn’t against the rules…


Matt November 21, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Seeing that the Bible is composed of both the Old and New Testament, one could claim religious preferences if they were Christian or Jewish. The real tragedy is that men grow hair on their faces. So, looking like a human is intended to is the offence. We were made in Gods age, so God needs to shave?


MilkAndWookiees October 11, 2015 at 12:22 am

As an employee in the security industry, myself, it strikes me as odd and somewhat [gender] discriminatory that there is no such shaving policy in place for female officers. For that matter, female officers are even allowed to adorn themselves in baubles of purely aesthetic value, such as jewelry, or even make-up. Admittedly, make-up is not always purely aesthetic, and some is actually enhanced with various ingredients that supposedly are good for the skin. There’s certainly no safety reason for requiring officers to be clean shaven; we have no need of masks of any sort. Furthermore, for many men, a beard is a source of confidence; it just makes him feel that much more comfortable with the way he looks. This can only be a positive point, as his confidence will manifest in more apparent ways.


Bill August 18, 2015 at 8:24 am

Companies have every right to dictate grooming policies that best fit their needs. Likewise, workers that are dissatisfied with said policies are more than free to move on from Mickey-Mouse operations that choose to be wholly reliant on the efforts of women and children in favor of companies that are willing to hire real men.


vivek April 20, 2016 at 3:46 pm

hey bill
today i was asked to have a clean shave. so with curiosity i was just surfing wthr it is compulsory to have clean shave. and unfortunately i was very dissatisfied with your answer. as you said a company has full rights to make it compulsory for every 1 for clean shave. so just suppose i am the ceo of your xyz company for whom you are working and i made it compulsory to have clean shave hair(bald) then would you still work for the company???? because as you said company has full rights..


not bill June 15, 2016 at 10:01 am

umm read the second part of his statement vivek… private sectors can dictate that but YOU have every right to not take it and leave. It’s not rocket science


Gonzo November 12, 2014 at 6:20 pm

A couple points –
“Unkempt” is not used correctly here. There is nothing inherently unclean or untidy about a beard. It may not suit your personal preference, but that does not change the definition of the words.

Respirators exist that accommodate beards, so the exemption for safety equipment can be challenged as a reasonable accommodation.


Alun November 17, 2017 at 5:27 pm

Unkempt is an easy one to decipher. It is a German word and means you didn’t comb your hair. Period. No other meaning.


DW October 27, 2014 at 10:58 pm

rebelliousness is a negative? I believe it shows an active creative mind willing to think outside the box….


Brett Page May 2, 2015 at 12:44 am

Which is not what you need when a team needs to work together in times of stress and danger. It’s more like a “look at me, look at me, I’m an individual!” type attitude. As if true individuality is defined by some physical attribute.


Rik Warren November 4, 2013 at 7:50 pm

This is a throw back and has no place in business. No serious professional will groom/ or not, to replicate the Red Sox beardly bro-ness. It is a rule about control and not about results. Should I as a member of the Church of the Unnacient be subjected to rules not applicable to Orthodox Jews /Sikhs, et al? Oh no, you wore a STRIPED SHIRT. You are too tan; Too tall; Too blond; Tell Larry Ellison to shave his goatee! Moronic and totally regimented thinking holds us back. Embrace the individual.


David Phippen November 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

A well-timed, nicely-written article. I would add that states and/or localities may enact laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on “appearance.” For example, the District of Columbia has one. The precise range of application of such a law is not entirely clear. In D.C., the D.C. Human Rights Act “personal appearance” category has been applied to factors such as cross-dressing, hair styles and beards . From the employer-advocate side, we typically argue legitimate business reasons, purpose and/or necessity (for example, safety) for the factor that is challenged.


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