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Facial-hair expectations

Facial-hair expectations

Question:

Can a restaurant make a bartender, who also handles food, shave his beard? There is no employee handbook or company policy on facial hair. 

– Mike, JP’s, Hamburg, NY

Answer:

Buoyed by our body odor discussion last week, a number of related questions about personal appearance have arisen. This one is near to my heart as the last day I shaved my face was the day I graduated from culinary school in 1997. Fortunately I hadn’t had a job since that didn’t allow a beard or beard snood. Of course, being back-of-house helps!

Your question underscores the need for a clear employee handbook with a signoff before you accept a position indicating that you have read and understand the rules and expectations. It’s frustrating for employees and risky for the restaurant when the rules change mid-game. Still, even in the absence of the handbook, your employers could probably argue that in the interest of guest health and safety or consistent with local health department codes that you must be clean-shaven. Of course you could fight back—and might even win—but the legal costs of doing so are probably not worth it.  If you have a medical or religious reason to have a beard, it’s a different discussion but that should have been made clear from the outset.

More on grooming and the law here

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