- Publix has agreed to review its dress code policy, which outlines facial hair standards, in response to an online employee petition to allow store workers to wear beards, according to a recent article in the Sun Sentinel. On Monday morning, the petition had collected more than 18,000 signatures.
- Publix has had a long-time beard ban, citing public health reasons, allowing only a neat, trimmed mustache for male employees. The Florida-based grocer is now testing a change to this policy at 10 South Carolina locations, giving workers the freedom to grow a beard.
- The petition was started three years ago by a Publix employee on Coworker.org. Supporters of the change are also taking to Twitter, using the hashtag #FreetheBeard.
Most people who work in any part of the food service industry, from servers at restaurants to deli staff at supermarkets, are familiar with the standard "no beard" policy. Public health is propped up as the main reason behind the demand that male employees only sport a trim mustache, if one at all. No one wants to find an errant beard hair in his or her lunch meat, after all.
But as facial hair trends change and labor becomes tight, some supermarkets are reviewing their policy.
This is likely a move to keep workers happy, as the popular chain is expanding its territory and could be facing challenges hiring and retaining employees. Nationwide, unemployment is very low, hovering just above 4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last week Publix also announced it was raising pay scales for its workers and expanding stock benefits.
Publix had quite a boom in the fourth quarter.The company announced last Thursday that earnings in the quarter climbed more than 40% to $776.6 million — a spike credited to the recent changes in tax law.
The company has said it plans to invest more than $1.5 billion this year to expand, which includes building new stores and remodeling old ones. Publix already enjoys a positive reputation among its workers, and has been included in Fortune’s top 100 places to work every year they have completed the survey — 19 years in all. By listening to employees interest in sporting a beard at work, the company demonstrates that they value their workers — a quality that likely gets them on that list every year.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the grocer change its policy on a broader scope, which could lead to an industry-wide shift in facial hair policies. As customer service becomes more important to consumers, a good employee is a valuable asset, with or without a beard.