U.S. Circuit Court: Employers May Refuse Applicants with Dreadlocks

Is denying a person a job due to certain looks wrong? For example, people with a lot of tattoos may be turned down from certain jobs that are looking for cleaner image when it comes to representation. Should that be illegal?

I don’t think so. You have the freedom to look how you want, but employers also reserve the right to not hire people that do not have the tidy look that they are seeking.

THe 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of employers being allowed to refuse employing a person due to them having dreadlocks. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Catastrophic Management Solutions, but lost.

NBC News reports: 

The lawsuit was filed by the EEOC on behalf of Chastity Jones, whose job offer was rescinded by Catastrophe Management Solutions, located in Mobile, Alabama. According to the case file, Jeannie Wilson, a human resources manager for CMS, commented on Jones’ dreadlocks during a private hiring meeting to discuss scheduling conflicts, telling Jones, “they tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.” Wilson told Jones that CMS would not bring Jones on board with dreadlocks, terminating the job offer.

In their suit, the EEOC claimed that this was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s Title VII, arguing that dreadlocks are a “racial characteristic” that have been historically used to stereotype African-Americans as “not team players” and as unfit for the workplace. Therefore, claiming that dreadlocks do not fit a grooming policy is based on these stereotypes and inherently discriminatory, as dreadlocks are a hairstyle “physiologically and culturally associated” with African-Americans.

According to the court, the company’s “race–neutral grooming policy” did not discriminate. Although the EEOC claimed the policy was “culturally associated with race,” the judges disagreed. Things like hairstyles are not necessarily “tied to culture” and can be changed. Therefore, the company can refuse people with those hairstyles.

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