If you live in the southeastern United States, you’ve likely visited a Publix Supermarket. The Florida-based company is known for its friendly employees and commitment to sustainability. Publix is proud of its traditional Southern roots; however, its view hasn’t always embraced whiskers in the workplace.
As of September 29, 2018, you can have a beard and work for Publix. Up until this time, the only acceptable facial hair was a mustache that did not go beyond the lips. Publix changed its beard policy after employee petitions. Currently, Publix employees are allowed to have beards as mustaches as long as they are kept neat and well-groomed.
If you want to learn more about the change in Publix’s facial hair policy, read on!
Are Publix employees allowed to have facial hair, beards, or mustaches?
While Publix is the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the country, employees haven’t always been able to express their personality through their appearance. Publix has a history of strictly dictating clothing and hairstyles acceptable on the job.
Publix employees are now allowed to have facial hair including beards and mustaches as long as they are well-groomed.
The “Where Shopping is a Pleasure” giant has always strived to meet customer expectations and make every part of the shopping experience line up with its brand values. Historically, this has meant no beards, tattoos, or unnatural hair colors.
Today, groomed beards, tattoos, and even sprinklings of pink and purple dye can be seen on associates.
Does Publix make you shave?
What if fast-growing facial hair is your superpower? Do you have to carry a razor in your pocket at Publix? Not anymore.
Publix does not make you shave your beard today. Before 2018, employees showing up to work unshaven were required to shave before their shift.
Can you have a beard at grocery stores?
Around the time of Publix’s facial hair change, unemployment rates were at a record low. It’s probably not coincidental that many popular stores began changing things like employee dress codes. Why? Relaxed codes often attract and retain much-needed talent.
While some grocery stores have allowed beards, many have banned them or restricted them to certain departments. When beards are not allowed, food safety is the common reason given.
The grocery store industry has seen a wide range of appearance standards. Harris-Teeter seems to fall in the more relaxed category while chains like Publix and Ingle’s lean more conservative.
Do you have to wear a beard net at Publix?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code and local health agencies provide guidance to food service establishments.
Employees report that beard nets are required when working in certain departments at Publix. They follow the guidance of the FDA Food Code. As a result, employees working in the produce, deli, seafood, and butcher departments are required to wear beard nets.
The Food Code encourages all workers who come in contact with unpackaged food and those who clean equipment, utensils, and food contact surfaces to wear hair restraints and covers. At Publix, everyone who enters a “freshy” area must have their hair covered.
The produce department offers up fresh unpackaged fruits and vegetables so they fall into “beard net required” territory.
They appear to be so strict with the rule that 5 o’clock shadows must also be covered.
There’s a lot of slicing going on in the Publix deli department, and a lot of equipment to be cleaned. Beard nets are required while taking on these tasks.
Seafood department employees spend the day sorting, steaming, and packaging everything from shrimp to fish filets. Beard nets protect your seafood fest from contamination.
When handling fresh meats, beard nets and hair restraints are a must. One employee said the rule is taken so literally, even bald employees have to wear head covers when in these departments.
Fun Fact: Publix’s deli subs are hashtag (#PubSub) and Facebook famous. If you regularly crave a Philly cheesesteak or Italian sub, you can be confident it will be hair-free.
Official Publix facial hair policy in 2022
Long-standing “no beard” rules aside, Publix has let the mustache slide. In fact, Publix founder George Jenkins had one.
In 2022, Publix’s official facial hair policy allows both mustaches and beards as long as they meet “neat, clean, and professional” appearance standards.
The road to beard approval hasn’t been a straight one. In 2015, a Publix employee started a petition on Coworker.org requesting the acceptance of beards. Brandon Wesley was tired of shaving his fast-growing stubble before every shift. Publix corporate decided to conduct a “beard test” in three of its smaller GreenWise stores but ultimately decided to remain “beard-free” company-wide.
Thankfully, for wanna-be bearded employees, this wasn’t the end of the road.
Over the next 3 years, Wesley’s #FreetheBeard petition gained over 20,000 signatures. Publix decided to do a wider “beard test” and the beards came out on top. Publix amended its “no beard” policy to include neatly trimmed beards at all locations.
Can you be fired for growing a beard at Publix?
Before the change, if you showed up with a little stubble, you had to go into the store restroom and shave before you could start your shift. If you didn’t comply, you were sent home and couldn’t return until you were clean-shaven.
Prior to 2018, you could be fired for growing a beard at Publix. Today, beards are not a fireable offense as long as they are groomed within the guidelines.
Does facial hair policy vary at different Publix locations?
Publix is known in the grocery industry for its consistency. Walk into any store and you are likely to have the same shopping experience. This consistency bleeds over to employee policies as well.
According to employees, the facial hair policy doesn’t vary much across different locations. Facial hair policies can vary for different departments within the same store due to health and safety guidelines.
When Publix first began its beard pilot testing, it chose to do it in only a limited amount of its specialty GreenWise markets. Employees who were around for this 2015 round were unhappy that a handful of stores reaped bearded benefits but everyone else did not.
Are there exemptions for beards and mustaches at Publix?
Publix makes it known on their website that they “make it a priority to employ and work with people from many different backgrounds, cultures, abilities, and ethnicities.”
Publix does make some exemptions for beards and mustaches due to religious, cultural, or medical reasons. Their goal is to reject racism or discrimination of any kind.
To be in compliance with equal opportunity and anti-discrimination laws employers like Publix must provide “reasonable accommodations” for religious beliefs.
Religious or cultural beliefs
As recently as last year, Publix was found in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for requiring a new hire of the Rastafarian faith to cut off his dreadlocks to a certain length in order to begin work.
Publix will consider facial hair exemptions for religious or cultural reasons on a case-by-case basis. If allowances are made, beard covers must still be worn to prevent food contamination.
Providing the opportunity to wear hair coverings in these instances can avoid costly, newsworthy attention and ensure “reasonable accommodation” compliance.
Painful skin conditions like pseudofolliculitis barbae can become a huge problem when required to shave every day.
Publix will consider facial hair exemptions for medical reasons with proper medical documentation. Beard cover rules will remain in effect and facial hair will still need to be kept to professional grooming standards.
The change in beard policy will reduce the need for special exemptions and protect even the most sensitive of skin.