Last time we checked, hair styles had nothing to do with crushing it at work. Even if you’re in the food service industry, where a stray hair could end up in someone’s food, all you’ve got to do is put on a hat or hair net, and you’re good to go.
But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that it’s legal for companies to discriminate against employees with dreadlocks. The ruling comes from a suit filed by Chastity Jones, an Alabama woman who had her job offer rescinded after an HR manager said dreadlocks “tend to get messy,” so they wouldn’t be appropriate in the workplace.
The HR manager allegedly told Jones, “I’m not saying yours are [messy], but you know what I’m talking about.” Well, if you’re asking us to read between the lines, it doesn’t sound like you’re talking about a messy bun. The company’s grooming policy stated “hairstyle should reflect a business/professional image. No excessive hairstyles or unusual colors are acceptable.” So dreadlocks are either unprofessional or excessive. It seems like some thinly veiled racism here, huh?
The appeals court didn’t agree. The justices said that while hairstyle can be associated with a person’s heritage, the HR managers actions were not discriminatory because hair is a physical characteristic you can change. So by this logic, an overweight person could be denied a job because that’s something they could change.
Ultimately, we should be hiring people based on their ability to do the job, not on the way they look.