In 2010, a woman named Chastity Jones received a job offer from Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS) in Mobile, Alabama. But according to Jones, a white human resources manager took issue with her dreadlocks, saying the style was against company policy because dreadlocks “tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.” Jones refused to change her hairstyle and says that the job offer was rescinded.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 also 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.” Their statement also noted that the “hairstyle can be a determinant of racial identity.”
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. And 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.
“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,” stated judge Adalberto Jordan, who delivered the decision.
This is yet another 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 getting expelled from school for wearing afros and black women are getting fired from their jobs simply because of their natural hair, not because of their ability to do their jobs. This has to stop.