Dreadlock Discrimination

I was just catching up on all the people I follow on Twitter when I saw a link from Ask A Manager to a news story about a company that was being sued for refusing to hire a man who wears his hair in dreadlocks. When I clicked over and began reading it made me a little sad, though not particularly surprised, to discover that all of this is happening in my own state- Virginia.

The company being sued is a moving and storage business, and they have stated the following as their reason for refusing the be-dreadlocked man employment:

"We are in the household goods moving business which requires our people to go into customers’ homes and to have close personal contact with them. Our policy states that hair, facial hair, beards and general grooming must be neat, clean and trimmed. His hair was down to the middle of his back and he was asked to get it cut to about shirt collar length. He refused to comply with this neutral policy."

Now, all personal preferences and standards of beauty aside, and with the assumption that the man in question adheres to basic hygiene practices and the care and upkeep of his dreads (because contrary to popular belief, people with dreadlocks can and do in fact wash their hair); exactly how are this man’s dreads any different than long, long hair on a woman? The policy requires the hair to be neat, clean and trimmed. The man offered to keep his dreads tied back or under a cap, which would take care of the neat requirement. If he cares for his dreads correctly, as we’re assuming he does, then his hair is clean. The only part of this policy that should in any way be taken into account is the “trimmed” part, but the company goes on to clarify that it was simply the length of the hair which was a problem. It was down to the middle of his back. I would be curious to know if they would also refuse to hire a woman with all of the necessary qualifications just because her hair reached the middle of her back.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing on religious grounds, because the man’s dreadlocks are a result of his religious views, but I personally think they would have a case even if the dreadlocks were a purely aesthetic choice. Refusing to hire this man because his hair is long, when it is highly likely they would hire a woman with the same length hair is sexist.

I also have problems with the concept of taking anyone’s appearance into account when hiring, but those views are less about the legality and more about my own personal beliefs so I won’t go into them here. Bottom line is that no matter how you look at it, this guy was discriminated against and that is wrong.

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2 thoughts on “Dreadlock Discrimination

  1. I agree with the caveat that I would be curious to know how they require women to keep their hair. In as much as it’s likely they’re lax about such requirements, at least as far as the law is concerned they’d have to find an employee who isn’t in compliance to prove the issue.

    Oddly enough I think I’d probably respect the guy more with the dreads than if they were cut; as superficial as it is, I associate short dreads more with people trying to be ‘gangsta’ and thuggish. Long dreads lack that association in my mind. I’m not sure if that counts as stereotyping or racism, given that I’m fairly certain I’d feel that way regardless of skin color. But it’s there. And if the company’s that hung up on appearance…

  2. Hmm… That’s an interesting association. When I see short dreads if I think anything at all it’s that they must have started them recently. I mean, if I were to dread my hair at the length it is right now the dreads would be short. Probably around my shoulders, since I think that dreads are similar to braids in that they kinda scrunch the hair up a bit and my hair is currently a little longer than shoulder length. Might be wrong though.

    I’d say it is stereotyping, but not necessarily racist.

    As far as the company being hung up on appearance… I just really don’t understand that. I said this in a comment on the actual article, but I’ll say it here too. If I hire a mover I do not give a flying fuck what they look like as long as they move my shit without causing any damage to any of it. Their job is to move things, not look pretty, so why even have a policy about the appearance of your movers beyond something just basically saying, “You will be dealing with other human beings frequently. Please take showers regularly and practice basic hygiene.”?

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