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Does the denial of a job offer for wearing dreadlocks constitute race discrimination?

An African-American woman has petitioned the Supreme Court to review her race-discrimination matter. She asserts that she was offered a job as a customer service representative, but the offer was rescinded when she refused cut her dreadlocks. If heard, this case has the potential to impact how courts evaluate race discrimination cases.

In this matter, the woman had an interview with her hair worn in short locs, and was dressed professionally. She was given a job offer, but was told that dreadlocks violated the company’s grooming policy, because they “tend to get messy.” After she refused and lost the job offer, she filed suit asserting that the pulling of the job offer was prohibited employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII provides that it is illegal to take race into consideration when making employment related decisions such as hiring, firing or promoting.

The company denies that the decision was racially motivated, countering that this is a grooming policy unrelated to race. The federal district court which heard the claim sided with the company, reasoning that race discrimination must be based on immutable characteristics that can’t be changed, such as skin color. Because hairstyles can be changed, the court reasoned, it was not race discrimination to fire her for wearing dreadlocks.

The plaintiff is now seeking review with the Supreme Court, asserting that at the heart of this case is deeply entrenched, subtle racism against in this instance, black women who wear their hair naturally. Plaintiff argues subtle work-place discrimination exists against black employees based on the stereotype that black natural hairstyles are not suitable for formal work place environments.

The Supreme Court will hear its next round of cases in October.

For more information, or if you believe that you have suffered any form of workplace discrimination, please contact the experienced Atlanta workplace discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal, LLP for an immediate consultation.

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