Legal Discrimination? The Court Rules Against Dreadlocks

By Alanis Rivera
For Unwind magazine

A recent court hearing on September 2016 has officially declared that employers are allowed to discriminate against applicants with dreadlocks. The federal court came to this decision after reviewing a case between a young woman named Christy Jones–with the support of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)–and Catastrophe Management Solutions of Mobile, Alabama.

The issue at hand was the company denying Ms. Jones a job based on her preference of grooming: dreadlocks. Their excuse was that “dreads tend to get messy” and that their employees must have a professional look.

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A UMD student shows off her dreadlocks. Photo by Adhithya Kannan

“[The fact that the company said that] makes me angry,” Kristin Saunders, a junior majoring in secondary world language education, said. “I take pride in my hair, and it takes a lot of work to maintain to be considered messy.”

Jones and EEOC argued that the discrimination against dreadlocks in the workforce goes against Title VII in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making it clear that it is illegal for an employer to refuse to hire someone based on their race, color, sex, religion or natural origin.

The EEOC proclaimed that dreadlocks are related to African descent because dreads are typically associated with the culture, and therefore discriminating dreadlocks is discriminating against race.

“Even though my hair is well kept and clean, I still have a high chance of being racially discriminated due to my hair,” Darien Sinclair, a senior mechanical engineer major, said.

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Two UMD students wear their hair in dreadlocks. Photo by Adhithya Kannan

The U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the case with the decision that racial discrimination must be directly correlated with race and not hairstyles. Therefore Catastrophe Management Solutions was not at fault and in their right not to hire Jones because of her hair.

This court decision could ultimately affect all young individuals with dreads–and any other unique hairstyles–searching for jobs. It has now been legally decided that prospective employees can be denied a job due to their personal expression and maintenance of their hair. It raises the dilemma as to whether someone should cut their hair in order to get a job.

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Photo by Adhithya Kannan

“My dreads are an extension of me and to say that I need to get rid of my dreads to be suitable for a job is to say that I’d be good enough for the job if I wasn’t me,” said Lorrence Jones, a sophomore accounting major.

This new law is on the verge of changing the diversity and hiring process as we know it within the workforce.

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