Can Businesses Refuse to Hire People with Dreadlocks?

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a jobseeker who argued that employers should be unable to refuse to hire people for having dreadlocks. This case led to a national debate on whether employers should be able to ban dreadlocks.

In 2010, Chastity Jones applied to work at Catastrophe Management Solutions, an insurance claims processing company in Alabama. Jones made it into the final round of hiring along with several other employees and was offered the position. However, a human resources manager pulled her aside into a private meeting to inform her she needed to cut off her dreadlocks before starting the job. Jones refused to do so and the job offer was rescinded.

The EEOC filed a lawsuit against Catastrophe Management Solutions, alleging that this was a case of racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. According to the EEOC, dreadlocks are a hairstyle culturally and physiologically associated with people of African descent.

Does This Mean Employers Can Ban Dreadlocks?

Ultimately, the court ruled against the EEOC. According to the court, the employer did not discriminate based on the biological conception of race, and so therefore, could refuse to hire the employee even if dreadlocks were culturally associated with African Americans.

The EEOC has said it will review options to challenge the decision, so observers of this case should expect an appeal. Employees who are discriminated against for having dreadlocks should not be deterred by this decision. Other federal courts may disagree with this ruling if similar cases are filed.

The Los Angeles employment law attorneys at Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, P.C. can help workers who have been wrongfully terminated.

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