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Employee tells Publix: Let me have a beard

Brandon Wesley, a  Tallahassee college student filed an online petition at Coworker.org to encourage Publix, Florida’s largest grocery chain, to update its conservative employee policies regarding facial hair. [CNNMoney.com] 
Brandon Wesley, a Tallahassee college student filed an online petition at Coworker.org to encourage Publix, Florida’s largest grocery chain, to update its conservative employee policies regarding facial hair. [CNNMoney.com] 
Published Jun. 4, 2015

Brandon Wesley wants to grow a beard.

But Wesley, 19, can't if he wants to keep his job at Publix.

So this week, the Tallahassee college student filed an online petition at Coworker.org to encourage Florida's largest grocery chain to update its conservative employee policies regarding facial hair.

"I believe that the majority of the people I work with at Publix also believe that we should be allowed to have some facial hair besides only a mustache," Wesley wrote online. "We should be allowed to have a beard, with limitations on how long it can be and a beard net for the employees who work with food."

The petition, which has been written about in national media outlets like CNN Money this week, has collected more than 6,600 signatures. The campaign's goal is 7,000.

"I want Publix Super Markets to review its dress code on its facial hair policy, which will also allow them to look at the other dress code policies in affect that may need modernizing (hair length, earrings policy, etc.)," Wesley writes.

Lakeland-based Publix does allow workers to have facial hair in some work areas, including at the company's more upscale and organic Publix GreenWise Markets, said spokesman Brian West.

"As a food manufacturer and retailer, hair presents challenges. In limited work areas, facial hair is allowed and we require all associates to wear beard guards and hairnets to help prevent product contamination," West said.

The use of beard guards has skyrocketed in the past year at restaurants around the Tampa Bay area.

Worn by many as a fashion statement, the beard has become a staple of the "hipster" culture, with beard catchphrases and memes flooding the Internet, T-shirts and even sported by some celebrities and models in recent years. This may be why Publix chose its three GreenWise Markets, the company's alternative brand to trendy competitors like Whole Food Markets and Trader Joe's, to allow workers to have beards.

"In (GreenWise Markets), we tested customer offerings and associate appearance guidelines, including uniforms and grooming standards. While not every test was successfully rolled out companywide, these tests did provide important learnings," West said.

Publix employees at traditional stores are allowed to have a mustache. Facial hair is allowed for religious reasons on a case-by-case basis.

Justine Griffin can be reached at jgriffin@tampabay.com. Follow @sunbizgriffin

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