Employers Can Ban Dreadlocks, Court Rules

A 3-0 decision handed down by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it is OK for employers to discriminate on the basis of traditional ethnic hairstyles.

Chastity Jones, who applied for a position with Catastrophe Management Services in Mobile, Alabama, in 2010, alleged that her offer was rescinded after she refused to change her hairstyle following notice from a human resources manager that locs were against company policy, as they are “messy,” the Huffington Post reported.

Jones filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which sued on Jones’ behalf in 2013. The EEOC argued that race is a social construct that cannot be defined solely by immutable traits. Further, it added that withdrawing Jones’ contract is an act of racial discrimination, as dreadlocks are a hairstyle culturally associated with individuals of African descent.

The EEOC’s claim was dismissed by the Alabama federal court, which argued that every court to have taken up such a case has decided it against hairstyle being protected by Title VII.

Writing for the court, U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan said, ““We recognize that the distinction between immutable and mutable characteristics of race can sometimes be a fine (and difficult) one, but it is a line that courts have drawn.”

“So, for example, discrimination on the basis of black hair texture (an immutable characteristic) is prohibited by Title VII,” he added, “while adverse action on the basis of black hairstyle (a mutable choice) is not.”