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Dredlock descrimination; Employers can legally discriminate against people with dreadlocks

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photo by Pixabay

by Briana Clinkscales, Editor

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Naturalistas, beware.

In 2010, Chastity Jones applied for a job from Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS) in Mobile, Alabama. According to the Wall Street Journal, Jones was initially hired, but the role came with one condition. Jones was told that she’d have to cut off her dreadlocks in order to comply with the company’s grooming policy. She refused to do so and the job offer was rescinded.

Jones went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and in 2013, the EEOC filed a lawsuit on Jones’ behalf, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964:
It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer—
(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The EEOC stated that withdrawing her employment contract simply due to her hairstyle is an act of racial discrimination because “dreadlocks are a manner of wearing the hair that is physiologically and culturally associated with people of African descent.”

On Sept. 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of CMS’ decision to refuse to hire Jones because of her dreadlocks. The court disagreed with the EEOC’s claim that it is in fact racial discrimination. While it’s no secret that dreadlocks are a hairstyle that have been worn by black people for decades, the court ruled that since the hairstyle is not an immutable characteristic of black people, it’s not racial discrimination.

This is a glaring example that proves the outright prejudice that many black women face simply because of the way that we choose to wear our hair. Young girls are allegedly getting expelled from school for wearing afros and black women are getting fired from their jobs because of their natural hair, not because of their ability to do their jobs. Though there’s room for a discussion on the cultural and racial implications of dreadlocks, this much remains true: I don’t know of any cases where a hairstyle traditionally associated with white people has been banned by workplaces.

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Dredlock descrimination; Employers can legally discriminate against people with dreadlocks