Chastity Jones had gotten the job, but there was one cosmetic condition: her dreadlocks had to go, the woman said.
Jones, a black woman, had interviewed for a job as a customer service representative at a call center with Catastrophe Management Solutions in Mobile, Alabama in 2010. After she was hired, she spoke with the HR manager about scheduling, AL.com reported.
When Jones got up the leave, the manager told her the company couldn’t hire her “with the dreadlocks,” the publication said. "They tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, you know what I’m talking about,” the manager explained, reported AL.com.
But when Jones refused to comply, the company took back the offer, Vox.com said.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jones in 2013, according to the federal complaint, which alleges the company’s policy is racially discriminatory.
CMS’s policy said employees are expected to be dressed and groomed in a manner “that projects a professional and businesslike image,” the suit said. “No excessive hairstyles and unusual colors are acceptable,” the policy states.
The complaint said the company interpreted that policy to ban dreadlocks, a style that has long been worn by people of African descent, documents said. The EEOC accused the company of racial discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But the courts sided with CMS. A federal district court said in 2014 that racial discrimination must show bias based on traits that a person can’t change, Vox.com said, like skin color. Hairstyles don’t qualify.
An appeals court upheld the ruling in 2016, Vox.com reported.
Now, Jones — represented by lawyers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — is appealing that ruling to the nation’s highest court. She’s asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review her case during their next session, AL.com reported.
The question at the heart of the case is whether an employer’s reliance on a “false racial stereotype” to deny a black woman a job is exempt from the law’s ban on racial discrimination only because it concerns a characteristic that can be changed, said the petition filed earlier this month.
CMS has said Jones has no “established right to maintain a chosen hairstyle in the face of an employer’s race-neutral policy,” AL.com reported.
The Supreme Court’s next session starts in October, AL.com said.