Sincethe widespread natural hair movement, many Black women are starting to embraceand love the hair that grows out of their head.
Unfortunately, everyone is notsocially accepting of this trend, especially employers who impose unfairgrooming standards that deter certain hairstyles in the work environment. Thesestandards disproportionately affect Black women, because we have kinky andcoarse natural hair and not long straight hair. The research presented in thisessay will seek to explore natural hair discrimination in the workplace, whilealso noting the importance of bringing this issue to light because many areunaware that this is a type of discrimination that occurs in the workplace.Blackwomen usually give into the norm to straighten theirhair to avoid natural hair bias because people tend to view Black hairas “unkempt”, and expect Black women to conform their hair to Eurocentricbeauty standards—long, straight tresses. This expectation negatively affectsBlack women who are then forced to spend tons of money annually on frequent salon appointments to chemically-straightentheir hair, to meet work-sanctioned grooming standards. Few victims of Black hair discriminationnormally file a lawsuit against the company and dispute their experiences incourt because often times the end result is not in their favor. For example, “the 11th U.
S. Circuit Court ofAppeals recently ruled against a lawsuit filed by the Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of Chastity Jones, whose job offer wasrescinded by Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS)”(Gutierrez-Morfin, 2016). The court ruling stated that it is legal for employersto choose not to hire someone because they have dreadlocks. “At the time, CMS’s hairstyle policy said that anemployee’s “hairstyle should reflect a business/professional image” andthat “no excessive hairstyles or unusual colors are acceptable” implicatingdreadlocks (Gandy, 2017). Conversely, the EEOC claimed that this was aviolation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s Title VII, arguing that dreadlocksare physiologically and culturally associated with African-Americans, and is inherentlydiscriminatory.
(Gutierrez-Morfin,2016). Yet, the reasoning behind thecourt’s ultimate decision was that “traits in a person’s appearance that aretied to their culture, but are changeable are not protected and can be used todeny job offers” (Gutierrez-Morfin, 2016). Similarly, the Rogersv. American Airlines case the court’s ruling was also based on “codes that classify individuals on the basis ofsocially-conditioned rather than biological differences”, which is nosurprise considering courts generally protectemployer-mandated hair and attire policies (Caldwell, 1991). The plaintiff, Renee Rogers, was an American Airlinesseasoned employee. Her job duties included, but not limited to extensivepassenger contact, including greeting passengers, issuing boarding passes, andchecking luggage. She claimed that the stigma placed on her liberty to wear herhair in cornrows intrudes upon her rights under the Thirteenth Amendment of theUnited States Constitution and discriminates against her. “Shecontends that it “has been, historically, a fashion and style adoptedby Black American women” (Haley and Brown, 2002).
However, the opposingside argued that the grooming policy applies equally to members of all races,and in their defense the plaintiff did not allege that an all-braided hairstyle is worn exclusively or even predominantly by black people. Thus,the main reason the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, was because thecourt disagreed with the plaintiff’s argument that the company’s groomingpolicy pertaining to exclude braided hairstyles from the workplace only targetedwomen (Yarbrough and Bennett, n.d.).
Furthermore, the court stressed that thepolicy was unbias and applied to both men and women. Lastly, in response to addressinghow the policy does not violate her rights of the Thirteenth Amendment, thecourt stated that Title VII only pertains to certain aspects of discrimination— race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Therefore, national origin shouldnot correspond with ethnic or sociocultural traits