While 35% of the 770,000 hairdressers and cosmetologists in the U.S. are self-employed, many don’t realize that the styles they give their clients can potentially cause discrimination in the workforce.
Back in 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act firmly stated that employers could not discriminate against employees based on their race. However, the term “race” was never defined, and for Chastity Jones, this ruling came back to haunt her.
In 2011, Jones, who is African-American, applied to work in the customer service department at Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS). She was told that she would be offered the job if and only if she cut off her dreadlocks.
According to Alabama Public Radio, “When Ms. Jones inquired what the problem was, [the manager] said ‘[dreadlocks] tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.‘ ”
When the company retracted their job offer, Jones complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Three years later, the EEOC sued on her behalf, and the trial came to a close last month.
However, the courts ruled that Catastrophe Management Solutions was right, as they did not discriminate against Jones because of her race. They said that the company’s prohibition against dreadlocks wasn’t race based, as every employee was forbidden to wear the style despite their race.
In summary, the judged ruled that CMS “does not assert that dreadlocks — though culturally associated with race — are an immutable characteristic of black people.”
The key word being immutable, meaning a characteristic that cannot change. For example, a person’s race is immutable because it cannot be changed from its natural state. However, a person’s hairstyle can be changed, which has nothing to do with their race.
Jones has not made a public comment about the ruling since it was announced.
photo: Marc Romanell