While employers often have a number of different guidelines related to how employees must dress and maintain their appearance, they cannot violate an employee’s civil rights with these rules.
A woman in Alabama filed an employment discrimination lawsuit related to her hair.
Plaintiff believes an employer’s grooming guidelines are inherently discriminatory
The woman in question attempted to appeal her case all the way to the state supreme court after she was denied a job offer because of her dreadlocks.
The situation began when the woman was offered a job at a call center in Mobile in 2010. The employer initially saw her hairstyle at an interview, then a human resources director later told her that her dreadlocks violated the company’s policies. The job offer was taken away afterward.
The defendant company claimed that their policies have nothing to do with race and are blanket grooming policies. The plaintiff says that she believes this kind of decision is clearly discriminatory. The local EEOC took the plaintiff’s claim and filed a federal lawsuit, where they argued that the employer was essentially saying any black employee’s hair would be problematic. The federal district that was supposed to initially try the claim agreed with the defendant, saying that the hairstyle could be changed and was not a permanent and unchangeable characteristic like race. A higher court of appeals also agreed with them and refused to reverse the decision. At the time of the news report, the plaintiff was waiting on the Alabama Supreme Court to re-hear the case.
There are some significant issues at play in this situation that will affect future Alabama employment law cases. It seems that if the defendant is successful, black employees in the state would have little ground to stand on if an employer tells them to change their hairstyle. The issue of whether hair is inherently intertwined with race is also significant. While employees can cut their hair or change hairstyles, the type of hair that they are born with cannot be changed, and hair type is tied to race.
Reasons for discrimination and harassment lawsuits
Employment discrimination lawsuits, and civil rights generally, tend to focus on traits that are immutable or not subject to change. This is why characteristics such as race are mostly strongly associated with civil liberties in American law. Another common scenario that results in successful lawsuits is when someone is sexually harassed because of their gender.
Get help from a local law firm
To learn more about whether your discrimination claim would be successful in court or not, contact a lawyer who focuses their practice on these issues in Alabama. Use the listings of labor and employment lawyers on USAttorneys.com to find a professional near you.