I Woke Up Like Dis? | Natural Hair Discrimination in Corporate America

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With racial tension high in America right now, it definitely added insult to injury when a Federal Court decided that it is indeed okay for an employer to terminate or not hire an employee for having natural hair styles. Initially, upon seeing the headline rampant across social media I was furious! What you mean we can’t wear natural hair in a corporate office!?! I wanted to get a better understanding of what this judgement meant for Black women and Corporate America. I did some digging and this is what I found.

In 2010, a woman named Chasity Jones accepted a job with a insurance claims company. Upon accepting the job, the company requested she change her hair, as it was not professional or business like. Chasity who wore dreads refused to change her hairstyle because they are permeant. She was immediately terminated. Chasity filed a lawsuit against the company claiming she was discriminated against because of her natural hair style. Well, the court decide 3-0 the company was well with in their rights to terminate Jones’  and that her hairstyle was not an “immutable” characteristic of her race.

What does that legal mumbo jumbo mean? Basically a hairstyle, while it may have ethnic ties, is a choice. Let’s say they fired her for her curly or kinky hair. That would be discrimination because hair texture is not a choice as defined by the EEOC. This is a murky fence to teeter. Dreads are permeant, and the only way to change them is to cut them off, making them immutable. While I don’t know the distinct details of this case, could she have argued that her hair was her religion? Under the EEOC, religious attire is protected from harassment or termination; such as a Muslim in a hijab.

Corporate America has a strict set of rules when it comes to appearance and dress code. It seems very strict on women, and even more strict on Women of Color, particularly Black Women. What does this mean for US? We must continue to accommodate and assimilate to European standards of beauty. I often get clients who work in Corporate settings that want to express themselves with their hair but can’t because they must stick to very minimal variations of what is considered “natural.” For US, natural comes in many shapes and shades. I have once had a boss tell me it was unbelievable and unnatural for a black woman to wear blonde hair. Let’s take a Caucasian woman, naturally brunette. For her, according to Corporate standards, a brunette can dye her hair blonde and it be believable, and acceptable. But an African American woman, naturally brown cannot dye her hair blonde because African Americans aren’t’ born blonde. According to whom? I beg to differ. The fact that I must even say that I have met, have serviced, am even related to Black women with naturally light, blonde hair is ridiculous. Why should we have to constantly prove our worth, our value, our history?

With your corporate dreams, continue the fight to maintain your identity. Conformity can be stressful, and slowly our ancestory is wiped away. With every ladder rung you climb, continue to be an outstanding representation melanin. Climb so high you break that corporate ceiling and you can make the rules, making it a better place for our melanin princesses in the future!

Happy Styling!

Meghann Monroe

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