Whiskers now welcome at Cincinnati Financial Corp. after policy change in February

Beard ban lifted with no "extreme styles"

CINCINNATI - Stubble is sprouting at Cincinnati Financial Corp ., which recently revised its personal grooming policies to permit beards.

“We’re going to invite associates to be neatly trimmed” and “avoid extreme styles,” said Cincinnati Financial spokeswoman Joan Shevchik. The company regularly updates workplace policies and has permitted mustaches for years, Shevchik added. The new policy was announced in late February to 4,200 employees, about two thirds of them at the company’s Fairfield headquarters.

“It was just something done with out a lot of hoopla,” Schevchik said. “It hasn’t been a big deal here.”

Walt Disney Co. grabbed headlines in 2012 when it modified its “Disney look” policy to allow goatees and beards.

The scruffy mugs of the World Series champion Boston Red Sox made beard watching a popular past time of baseball bloggers and sportswriters in the months leading up to the 2014 season. In case you missed it, the New York Yankees continue to ban beards but allow mustaches.

New Cincinnati Reds Manager Bryan Price has advised players to “keep it under control” in the beard department.

“No Duck Dynasty,” was how Reds Media Relations employee Jamie Ramsey put it in a recent Tweet.

The new beard policy at Cincinnati Financial is at least worth noting, given the property and casualty insurance company’s corporate culture. It’s a place where “a comfortable dining room” still serves a subsidized lunch and breakfast to workers. Twice-annual trips to the Cincinnati Zoo are listed among employee amenities.

“They hold onto the 1950s,” wrote one anonymous reviewer at glassdoor.com , a job and career web site where Cincinnati Financial draws a 2.6 rating on a 5-point scale. Some praised that cafeteria and free parking. One wrote that it’s a “solid company” with “a relaxed environment” and plenty of opportunities for lateral transfer.

“Dress code too conservative,” wrote another reviewer. “Culture is straight out of 1965.”

Schevchik said the policy change is part of an ongoing attempt to “attract and retain really good people” who are “capable of applying the same professionalism and good judgment they use in business decisions to decisions about their personal appearance and they’re going to want their work and accomplishments to be what’s noticed.”

Cincinnati attorney Julie Pugh said it isn’t unusual for companies to regulate personal appearance or modify its policies on a regular basis.

“We address companies altering their dress and grooming policies all the time, whether it’s facial hair or tattoos or piercings,” said Pugh, who practices employment law at the Graydon Head & Ritchey firm Downtown.  “I don’t think companies are being more liberal with them. I think they’re taking into account that times change and (professional attire) can look differently now than it did 50 years ago.”

Attorney Randy Freking said facial hair policies can be difficult to enforce because it is “potentially discriminatory” against job applicants with skin conditions or religious beliefs that require beards.

“I don’t know of too many companies that still have” beard bans, said Freking, founder of the Freking & Betz law firm and chairman of the Cincinnati Employment Lawyers Association. “I’d say (to Cincinnati Financial) welcome to the 20th century.”

There are no policies against facial hair at Cincinnati’s largest companies, incuding Western & Southern Financial Group, American Financial Group, Kroger Co. and Total Quality Logistics Inc.

“That would have put a damper on our Movember efforts,” said TQL spokeswoman Kristine Glenn, referring to the prostate cancer fundraising event that calls for men to grow whiskers in the month of November. It was popular enough last year that it negatively impacted razor sales in Procter & Gamble Co.’s second fiscal quarter.

P&G has no company-wide policy on facial hair but it does have “safety guidelines in a very specific plant setting where certain amounts of facial hair could prevent a proper fit for a self contained breathing apparatus to enter confined spaces.  An example of a confined space would be a chemical mixing tank that needs to be regularly emptied, cleaned and maintained,” said spokesman Bryan Mccleary.

“Macy's does not have a specific policy on facial hair,” said spokesman Jim Sluzewski. “ In general, we do ask that our associates be neat and well-groomed in the way they dress and appear.”

Fifth Third Bank provided this comment on grooming:

“Our dress guidelines state that employees should wear appropriate business attire while at the office or conducting Fifth Third business, and that they should use good judgment in determining appropriate dress and grooming.  This information is part of our employee policy manual.  We do not have a policy against facial hair.”

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