Refusing to hire someone because of their dreadlocks is legal, NBC reported.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a lawsuit in favor of Catastrophe Management Solutions against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), allowing the company to refuse employment to people with dreadlocks.
The EEOC filed the lawsuit on behalf of Chastity Jones, a Black woman from Alabama who lost a job offer because she refused to cut her dreadlocks.
The lawsuit has been ongoing since April of 2018, Vox reported.
Jones was offered a job as a customer service representative at a call center in Mobile in 2010. During the private hiring meeting, Jeannie Wilson, a human resources manager for CMS, told Jones that dreadlocks "tend to get messy." The HR manager then clarified her seemingly racist remarks by saying, "I'm not saying yours are, but you know what I'm talking about," NBC reported.
Jones wore her hair in short, natural locs and was dressed in a business suit and pumps to the interview, Vox reported.
Refusing to cut or change her hair, Wilson told Jones that CMS would not bring her on board with dreadlocks, terminating the job offer.
In the lawsuit, the EEOC asserts CMS's decision to deny Jones the job based on her hair was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's Title VII. The EEOC's main argument was that some employers see Black people with dreadlocks challenging to work with and unsuitable in the workplace.
Because dreadlocks are "physiologically and culturally associated" with African Americans, claiming dreadlocks are not suitable for the workplace is inherently discriminatory.
However, the court of appeals dismissed EEOC's claims, ruling that CMS has a "race-neutral grooming policy" that was not discriminatory toward hairstyles.
The court stated, "culturally associated with race" is not the same as "immutable physical characteristics." In a nutshell, a significant factor in the court's decision was the fact that Jones could have changed her hairstyle, which is why CMS could rescind her job offer.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is a federal law that protects employees against discrimination based on certain specified characteristics: race, color, national origin, sex and religion.
The courts have used Title VII to protect against "immutable characteristics" and not cultural practices.
In Garcia v. Gloor, the courts ruled against Hector Garcia, the plaintiff, arguing that Garcia getting fired for speaking Spanish in the workplace despite his employers only being able to speak English did not violate Title VII.
The Black Caucus' response to the decision noted this ruling would harm Black people the most.
"Once again, we are forced to choose between our identity and financial prosperity. This discriminatory ruling disproportionately affects Black people," the Black Caucus said on Twitter.
U.S. Court Rules Dreadlock Ban During Hiring Process is Legal via @NBCBLK https://t.co/wQ3atYU7ql— The Black Caucus (@TheBlackCaucus) February 6, 2020
Once again, we are forced to choose between our identity and financial prosperity. This discriminatory ruling disproportionately affects Black people.
Similar grooming policies have been used throughout schools too.
DeAndre Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, was told to cut his dreadlocks or miss graduation, as Blavity previously reported.
Another incident involved Buena High School wrestler Andrew Johnson being told by a white referee that he would have to cut off his dreadlocks to compete.