The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, holding that that refusing to hire someone because of their dreadlocks is okay.
The lawsuit was filed by the EEOC on behalf of Chastity Jones. Her job offer was rescinded by Catastrophe Management Solutions, located in Mobile, Alabama, when she refused to change her hairstyle to remove her dreadlocks.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC claimed that this was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s Title VII, arguing that dreadlocks are a “racial characteristic” that have been historically used to stereotype African-Americans. Therefore, claiming that dreadlocks do not fit a grooming policy is based on these stereotypes and inherently discriminatory, as dreadlocks are a hairstyle “physiologically and culturally associated” with African-Americans.
The court disagreed stating that the “race-neutral grooming policy” was not discriminatory as hairstyles, while “culturally associated with race,” are not “immutable physical characteristics.” In essence, traits in a person’s appearance that are tied to their culture but are otherwise changeable are not protected and can be used to deny job offers.
For help with employment law questions or other civil litigation issues, call Tracy Stroud, Attorney with Colombo Kitchin Attorneys in Greenville, NC, at 252-321-2020.