Banning dreadlocks during hiring process is legal, appeals court rules

(Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that refusing to hire a person who has dreadlocks is legal, according to NBC News.

The ruling came after a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Chastity Jones against Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS) in Mobile, Alabama, which rescinded her job offer becasue of her dreadlocks.

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According to the case file, when Jones was offered the job by CMS' human resources manager, Jeannie Wilson, whom the file says is white, she was informed that paperwork and lab tests would need to be completed before employment.

The file says Jones met with Wilson privately to discuss a scheduling conflict and change her lab test date, but before Jones left, Wilson "asked her whether she had her hair in dreadlocks." When Jones said she did, Wilson "replied that CMS could not hire her 'with the dreadlocks,'" the file says.

When Jones asked why, Wilson replied: "They tend to get messy, although I'm not saying yours are, but you know what I'm talking about," and mentioned that a male applicant was asked to cut his dreadlocks to get a job with the company, according to the case file.

"When Ms. Jones said that she would not cut her hair, Ms. Wilson told her that CMS could not hire her, and asked her to return the paperwork she had been given," the file says.

The EEOC claimed in the suit that rescinding the offer because of Jones' dreadlocks violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It was filed in accordance with CMS' race-neutral grooming policy that says, in part:"(H)airstyle should reflect a business/professional image. No excessive hairstyles or unusual colors are acceptable."

But the court ruled that the "precedent holds that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on immutable traits, and the proposed amended complaint does not assert that dreadlocks -- though culturally associated with race -- are an immutable characteristic of black persons."

Dreadlocks were described in the EEOC suit as "a manner of wearing hair that is common for black people and suitable for black hair texture. Dreadlocks are formed in a black person's hair naturally, without any manipulation, or by manual manipulation of hair into larger coils."

The ruling prompted strong reactions on Twitter, with some users appearing to insinuate the ruling is racist.

Oscar-nominated director Ava DuVernay, who wears her hair in locs, also commented:

NBC News reported that the courts have regularly interpreted Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as protecting against traits that cannot be changed rather than cultural styles or practices.