Woman Fired for Wearing Natural Hair Instead of Wig She Wore When Hired Wins Legal Battle, Company To Pay $50,000

by Gee NY
Hair care, beauty and black woman hand with curly hair on brown background in studio. Stock Photo. Getty Images

In a major victory against hair discrimination at the workplace, a Black woman, Imani Jackson, has won a $50,000 settlement in a case where she alleged she was fired for wearing her natural hair.

The lawsuit, filed by the federal government on behalf of Jackson against American Screening, LLC, exposed the deep-rooted bias against natural Black hairstyles in the workplace, according to a report attributed to the Miami Herald.

Jackson, who initially wore a straight wig during her job interview in August 2018, faced termination after she began wearing her natural, curly hair in a bun.

According to court documents, the owner of the company deemed Jackson’s natural hair “unprofessional” and instructed her to wear the wig again.

Despite encouragement from HR and payroll managers to seek employment elsewhere due to the owner’s discriminatory behavior, Jackson was ultimately fired.

“Other employees also often wore their own hair in buns or in ponytails, but unlike Ms. Jackson, those employees did not have tightly curled hair,” the lawsuit highlighted.

The discriminatory actions of American Screening violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which safeguards employees from discrimination based on race.

Efforts by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to reach a resolution through conciliation was futile as the company remained adamant.

Commenting on the case, EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows stated:

“Just as an employer may not ask an employee to change or conceal their skin color, an employer may not ask an employee to change their natural hair texture.”

This case underscores the ongoing fight against hair discrimination faced by Black women in the workplace.

Legislation like the CROWN Act aims to combat race-based hair discrimination, acknowledging the significance of hairstyles like locs, braids, and twists.

The resolution of the lawsuit through a consent decree mandates that American Screening takes proactive measures to prevent racial discrimination in employment practices. This includes anti-discrimination training for employees and the appointment of a liaison to uphold Title VII.

“Professionalism standards rooted in prejudices associated with racial characteristics are unlawful,” stated Elizabeth Own, senior trial attorney at the EEOC. “No one should be terminated or treated differently because of hair texture associated with their race.”

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