The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, a federal court which governs districts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, has ruled that employers can ban employees from wearing the dreadlocks hairstyle. In clearer detail, the court ruled that the ban is not centered in racial discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Chasity Jones, who in 2010 was denied employment at an Alabama insurance claims company because of the dreadlocks. The company said that they didn’t want their employees wearing the style after reportedly calling it “messy” and would only offer Jones the job if she cut her hair.

The court found that the company did not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in employment situations. Instead, the court sided with the company’s so-called “grooming” policy.

Courthouse News Service reports:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company on Jones’ behalf, claiming that its grooming policy “constituted discrimination on the basis of Ms. Jones’ race.”

According to the Sept. 15 ruling, however, dreadlocks are not considered an “immutable” racial characteristic.

“Title VII protects persons in covered categories with respect to their immutable characteristics, but not their cultural practices,” U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote.

“We recognize that the distinction between immutable and mutable characteristics of race can sometimes be a fine (and difficult) one, but it is a line that courts have drawn. So, for example, discrimination on the basis of black hair texture (an immutable characteristic) is prohibited by Title VII, while adverse action on the basis of black hairstyle (a mutable choice) is not.”

As described in the opinion, a representative for the company, Catastrophe Management Solutions, told Jones following an in-person interview that she could not be hired by the company if she maintained her dreadlocks, since “they tend to get messy.”

Tough week to be Black, and it’s only Tuesday.

Photo: felixtsao/CC BY 2.0

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