In 2010 Chastity Jones applied for a customer service representative position at Catastrophe Mangement Solutions. Jones was hired, but the company rescinded their offer when she refused to cut her dreadlocks. She was informed by a human resources manager that her hairstyle was in violation of the organization’s grooming policy which says the following:
“All personnel are expected to be dressed and groomed in a manner that projects a professional and businesslike image while adhering to company and industry standards and/or guidelines. . . . [H]airstyle should reflect a business/professional image. No excessive hairstyles or unusual colors are acceptable[.]”
It has been argued by the EEOC argued that banning dreadlocks in the workplace constitutes racial discrimination because “dreadlocks are a manner of wearing the hair that is physiologically and culturally associated with people of African descent.”
After a lawsuit was filed on Jones’ behalf in 2013 an Alabama federal judge dismissed the EEOC’s claim in 2014. The EEOC filed an appeal in 2015 and the appellate court declined the EEOC’s request to throw out the “immutable or mutable” distinction and upheld the federal court’s original ruling.
In a 3-0 ruling on Sept. 15, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a claim from a 2014 ruling that said racial discrimination had to be based on characteristics that didn’t change, and the hairstyle didn’t qualify as “immutable.”
“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,” U.S. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan wrote for the most recent ruling. “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.”