Black Women Whose Hair Cost Them Their Jobs

December 5, 2016  |  
1 of 10

I used to work at a magazine–a Black magazine, mind you–that didn’t allow cornrows or dreads to be worn in the office. Doing so could cause you to be fired. In recent years it’s become clear my former employer is far from alone when it comes to policies that discriminate against African American hair.

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“The bias against Black hair is as old as America itself. In the 18th century, British colonists classified African hair as closer to sheep wool than human hair. Enslaved and free Blacks who had less kinky, more European-textured hair and lighter skin–often a result of plantation rape–received better treatment than those with more typically African features,” reported The New York Times. “After Emancipation, straight hair continued to be the required look for access to social and professional opportunities…It wasn’t until the 1960s that the Black Power movement declared that ‘Black is beautiful’ — and not least unstraightened natural Black hair.”

The cycle went back to processed hair, but in the last decade Black women have once against embraced natural hair–unfortunately the workplace still hasn’t. Here are 10 Black women whose hair cost them their jobs.

(newpittsburghcourieronline.com)

(newpittsburghcourieronline.com)

Melphine Evans

Melphine Evans, a former executive at BP (British Petroleum Oil Co.), actually sued her company for allegedly firing her because of her braided hair and “ethnic” attire. It wasn’t like Evans was new to the company, she had built a 10-year career at the oil firm. Here’s what her last company evaluation just before being fired said:

“‘You intimidate and make your colleagues uncomfortable by wearing ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles (Dashikis, twists, braids/cornrows).  If you insist on wearing ethnic clothing/hairstyles-you should only do so during ‘culture day,’ Black history month or special diversity events/days. If you are going to wear ethnic clothing, you should alert people in advance that you will be wearing something ethnic …”

Rhonda Lee

Her natural hair may have gotten TV weather woman Rhonda Lee fired in 2012 from her meteorologist anchor position with KTBS 3 News, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, LA, but she wasn’t leaving quietly. Lee took her story to the press. It all started when Lee personally responded to several racially insensitive messages on the station’s Facebook page. “The first Facebook post dealt with a viewer who thought that she did a good job, but needed to change her hairstyle,” reported News One.

While the station said Lee was fired for violating its social media policy, Lee and her supporters claimed it was over the TV personality defending her right to wear natural hair. And she filed an EEOC complaint against the station.

 

CBS News

CBS News

Akua Agyemfra

According to CBC News, 20-year-old Akua Agyemfra was fired from her job as a server at Toronto-based Jack Astor’s Bar & Grill for wearing her natural hair in a bun. It seems Agyemfra was still in training when she was told she needed to wear her hair down or straight and was made to take her hair out in front of other co-workers to prove her hair couldn’t lay “down” without being processed or straightened.

She posted on Facebook:

“I know most black women at restaurants are forced to wear wigs or weaves or extensions, or are forced to straighten their hair everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I think extensions look great. I’ve been wearing them ever since I was a little girl. I love when I get my braids. It’s the protective style I choose and works for me. But why am I scrutinized when I decide to take them out? That’s not fair.  I’m not going to compromise my roots and edges because my employer wants me to. My scalp has a right to breathe just as much as the woman standing beside me.”

 

 

(Photo: USA Today)

Jessica Sims

The United States Army had to back pedal on its 2014 hair restrictions which banned hairstyles like cornrows, braids, twists, and dreadlocks. But before it did one Black female soldier, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jessica Sims, was honorably discharged Sims for having dreadlocks.

“Sims, a 12-year Navy vet, had been growing her locs since 2005 and failed to obey an order to cut the hair she normally wore in a tight bun because officials said they were too bulky to be worn with a gas mask. Sims argued against that claim, and said she’d never had a problem with having dreads before being stationed in Great Lakes. After her discharge, Sims went on to start classes at Loyola University, with plans to major in biology as a pre-med student. She also says she has no regrets,” reported Clutch

farryn-johnson-hooters1

(Photo: WJZ/CBS)

Farryn Johnson

Hooters may have thought they could boot a Black waitress for wearing blond hair, but a court felt otherwise. Farryn Johnson, who is African-American, was awarded more than $250,000 when an arbitrator found that racial discrimination contributed to her getting fired. Here’s the story: Johnson was working at a Baltimore Hooters and was wearing blond highlights when a manager told her, unlike the other (non-Black) waitresses with dyed blind hair, her blond streaks were unacceptable because they didn’t look natural. According to the manager, Johnson “can’t have blond because black people don’t have blond hair,'” the former waitress told NBC affiliate WBAL-TV in Baltimore.

Johnson was fired, she sued and won. Hoosters still disputes the facts and even how much Johnson was was awarded, reported NBC News.

(Photo: The Huffington Post)

(Photo: The Huffington Post)

Ashley Davis

Ashley Davis had already been working as a secretary for two months for Tower Loan in St. Peters, MO, in 2013 when a policy declaring dreadlocks, braids, mohawks and mullets was issued. Suddenly Davis was now in violation of the new policy and many wondered if it was created because of the 24 year old who was the only person in the office with that hairstyle. Davis refused to cut her locs and when asked to speak on the matter Tower Loan responded: “Tower Loan does not comment on individual personnel matters. However, Tower has an appearance policy that is clearly defined in its training manual. Tower believes a professional appearance is necessary for the success of the company.”

(Photo: NY Post)

(Photo: NY Post)

Tiffany Bryan

After surviving bone-marrow cancer, Tiffany Bryan decided to start wearing her natural hair in 2008. Five years later when she was hired by AEG Worldwide, Bryan, who was a security guard with the company, was fired for refusing to “tame” her Afro. “Bryan filed a $900,000 suit against the company in Brooklyn Federal Court last year, saying her supervisor told her she ‘looked like she stuck her finger in a socket and was electrocuted’ and another manager advised she ‘needed to do something with her hair.’ Though Bryan tried to appease her superiors, the final straw came when she was told she had to wear her large ‘fro in a ponytail — a style that simply wasn’t doable,” reported Clutch.

WGN

WGN

Tyler House

Earlier this year, 16-year-old Tyler House, who’s had locs for five years, pplied for a job at Marcus Cinema in Country Club Hills and was called in for an interview. A week later House received an email that she’d gotten the job. But when House went to orientation for her new gig she was told by the theater’s manager that her hairstyle was not acceptable.

“He called my name and brought me into the hallway and said, ‘Dreads are not allowed,’” House told WGN. “I was like, ‘Sir, I was going to put it to the back in a ponytail with the uniform hat.’ He said, ‘Male or female, any form of dreads are not allowed.’

Today

Today

Teona Parker

It’s not just Black women facing judgment in the workplace over their hairstyles, some young girls are also experiencing backlash in the classroom over the way they wear their hair. Take then-7-year-old girl Teona Parker of Deborah Brown Community School, in Tulsa, Okla. In 2013 she was informed her  dreadlocks violated school policy and faced being kicked out. “The school later said the girl’s hair was fine after receiving national media attention over the issue,” reported News One.  And Parker? She switched schools.

 

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