On September 15, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled it legal for employers to discriminate against people with dreadlocks. The shocking ruling comes on the heels of a 2013 claim filed by a woman in Alabama who lost a job due to the hairstyle.
In a nutshell, Chastity Jones applied for a job Catastrophe Management Solutions (what an ironic name!), and successfully made it to the hiring process.
As Jones was filling out some paperwork, human resources manager Jeannie Wilson made an inquiry about her hair:
“Before Ms. Jones got up to leave, Ms. Wilson asked her whether she had her hair in dreadlocks. Ms. Jones said yes, and Ms. Wilson replied that CMS could not hire her ├óΓé¼╦£with the dreadlocks’.”
Uh… what?! We don’t see how the woman’s dreadlocks would prevent her from doing the job!
The suit went on to claim:
“When Ms. Jones asked what the problem was, Ms. Wilson said ├óΓé¼╦£they tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.’ Ms. Wilson told Ms. Jones about a male applicant who was asked to cut off his dreadlocks in order to obtain a job with CMS.”
Yikes. How offensive.
Once Chastity confirmed that she would NOT be chopping off her locks (way to stand your ground, girl!), the company turned her away:
“Ms. Wilson told her that CMS could not hire her, and asked her to return the paperwork she had been given. Ms. Jones did as requested and left.”
Per CMS’s guidelines, they have a “race-neutral grooming policy” requiring employees to have hairstyles that “reflect a business/professional image”.
Wait — so the insinuation here is that dreadlocks aren’t business professional? Wow!
Unfortunately for Ms. Jones, the courts don’t believe CMS violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin”.
While the court’s reasoning is heavy with legal jargon, essentially they argue that racial discrimination has to be based on characteristics that don’t change, like the color of one’s skin. The judge argued that a hairstyle isn’t “immutable” — AKA discrimination is okay if it concerns cultural characteristics.
Elaborating on the ruling, the judge explained:
“There have been some calls for courts to interpret Title VII more expansively by eliminating the biological conception of ├óΓé¼╦£race’ and encompassing cultural characteristics associated with race. As far as we can tell, every court to have considered the issue has rejected the argument that Title VII protects hairstyles culturally associated with race.”
So, which side are YOU on?
[Image via Instagram.]