Social media continues to be laden with comments, almost two weeks after a Federal Appeals court ruling dictated that employers who ban dreadlocks from the workplace are not practicing discrimination. The ruling stemmed from a 2014 lawsuit, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought against Alabama-based Catastrophe Management Solutions on behalf of Chasity Jones. Jones was denied employment at the company because she refused to cut her locks.
A lower court dismissed the case, and earlier this month, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling, citing dreadlocks as a hairstyle and therefore a “mutable” characteristic of race, as opposed to an immutable characteristic like hair texture or skin color. Therefore, said the court, the company’s decision did not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Since the ruling, an internet and social media debate about race, culture, assimilation and quality of life has ensued and hasn’t shown any signs of dissipating.
“I don’t see anything wrong with this,” commented “Brandon” under a story Essence.com published on September 20.
“Three things: the protocol existed before she applied, there should be no expectation for them to change it for her [and] she is not being denied as a black person; she is being denied as a person who refuses to follow protocol…”
But, replied timmany7, “First, we as a race of people were financially blocked due to slavery. Then it was systemic racism that blocked us as American blacks from thriving. Then it was our names that were too ethnic to deserve job positions verses [sic] our character, intelligence, and credentials. Now it’s our hairstyles. You can call it insubordination Brandon because ignorance on your part is truly bliss. But, it’s all about keeping American blacks from working positions to obtain financial gain, taking care of their families, and paying their bills to be productive…”
Said Markus 80s, “I don’t like it and I hope it gets appealed. Dreadlocks are not a hairstyle that one can cut off, and readily go back to once a person is no longer working there. I’ve had my dreadlocks for about 2 years and it is still not long enough to put in a ponytail yet.”
Reportedly, during an in person interview with the company, Jones was told that she would not be hired if she kept the hairstyle, since it “tends to get messy.”
CMS processes claims for insurance companies.
EEOC claims that dreadlocks were never mentioned in CMS’ grooming policy, which states that employees hairstyles must reflect a professional image and “are not excessive”.
“Because of the historical truths and experiences of African Americans, it is only prudent for courts to recognize that African-American hair identity is rooted in African tradition,” the EEOC wrote in its opposition to the company’s motion to dismiss. “As such, natural styles are as much of a determinate of racial identity as melanoid skin.”
And, perhaps timmany7 summed up the situation best with this comment:
“Let’s rightly divide the issues and not get caught up in the race hype purposely being created over this ignorant decision made by the U.S. Court system,” he wrote.
“Frankly, I don’t think the court system realizes what they are saying by this decision. And if it is upheld, it will affect all U.S. citizens in the workplace which means all of US not just American blacks. First, you have to wear your hair in individual braids and then they turn to dreadlocks.
“Therefore, an employer must refuse the American black race from wearing individual braids in the workplace period. Why? Because of time frames. Let me explain.
“After a certain time frame, individual braids turn into dreadlocks. Therefore, in order to wear braids, an employer must now micromanage and monitor the ‘time frames’ of employees wearing individual hair braids. This becomes a humiliating and degrading process that IS harassment and discrimination based on race because people of African descent have a different grade of hair that when braided, locks differently and faster than those of European descent. Therefore, European grades of hair would be allowed to be worn in individual hair braided styles at a longer timeframe than the American black citizen in the workplace setting. Since the American black cannot change their hair grade, being limited and blocked from wearing this style in the workplace is unfair and biased. And frankly, micromanaging all hair braids…”