As if we don’t have enough to worry about with our natural hair, a federal court has ruled that dreadlocks are a reason not to give someone a job.
After Chastity Jones accepted a job offer from Catastrophe Management Systems in Mobile, Alabama in 2010, a white HR manager told her that her locs were against company policy because, “they tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.” After refusing to change her hairstyle, her job offer was withdrawn.
Jones went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), who filed a lawsuit against the company on her behalf. The EEOC claimed that terminating Jones’ job offer was a violation of the Civil Rights Act, arguing that “dreadlocks are a manner of wearing the hair that is physiologically and culturally associated with people of African descent.”
Alabama’s federal court dismissed the claim, and the EEOC filed an appeal. Unfortunately, the appellate court ruled that Catastrophe Management Systems’ “race-neutral grooming policy” was not discriminatory, because although hairstyles like locs, cornrows, twists, and braids are part of our cultural identity, we can always change them—so they aren’t protected and can be used to deny us employment.
An EEOC spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal, “We believe the court was incorrect when it held that the employer’s actions could not be proven to be race discrimination. We are reviewing our options.”
Policies against natural hair are being used as a way to deny us education and now, employment.