About face: Idea of facial hair grows on some employers

Though employers once banned mustaches and beards in the workplace, most take a more subjective and lenient approach to facial hair today.
by Paula Burkes Modified: February 2, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: February 2, 2014
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Pharmaceutical sales manager Brian Murphy, of Edmond, shaved just about every workday morning for 12 years straight. At his company, it was understood that male employees were clean-shaven — or, if they had facial hair, it was neatly trimmed. That didn't leave much opportunity for him to grow a mustache or a beard.

When Murphy was laid off in September, he suddenly had the time — and the disinclination to razors — to let his facial hair grow. “I hate shaving, and the last thing I wanted to do was shave and lay around the house,” he said.

“Getting laid off was similar to getting dumped by a girlfriend: It came as a shock, and afterward I spent a lot of time growing a beard and wearing sweatpants,” said Murphy, who accepted a new job in December. “Thank goodness I was able to find a job relatively quickly or I would have ended up looking like a cast member from Duck Dynasty.”

Policies differ

One Midwest City restaurant adheres to a policy similar to Murphy's former employer, while Express Employment Professionals bans beards. But most employers, including Integris Health, take a more subjective and lenient approach to facial hair, with exceptions for religious and medical reasons.

“Facial hair should be well groomed and neatly trimmed and may not interfere with personal protective gear,” Integris spokeswoman Brooke Cayot said, quoting the corporate handbook.

At Primo's d'Italia restaurant in Midwest City, facial hair is OK if employees are hired with it, Manager Blythe Plumley said. “But if not, they're supposed to be clean-shaven; no five o'clock shadows,” Plumley said.

“This is considered a nicer restaurant, and our owner wants employees to look professional, nice and clean.”

Express Chief Executive Bob Funk said his company allows neatly-trimmed mustaches, but forbids beards.

“The Express dress code is designed to project an image of excellence and professionalism,” Funk said. “On a weekly basis, we have potential franchise prospects visiting our international headquarters and on numerous occasions, I hear that one of the reasons they chose to buy an Express franchise is because of our professionalism.”

Keep it covered

Clements Foods Co. requires all employees with beards to wear beard nets along with hairnets when they're in the manufacturing area to meet food safety standards, Human Resources Director Denise Boevers said.

“An employee's beard must be within a reasonable length so that it is fully contained within the beard net,” Boevers said. “Mustaches that are neatly trimmed to the corners of the mouth do not have to be covered.”

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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