Black Worker Fired For Embracing Her Natural Hair; Told To Wear A Wig By Employer

Imani Jackson faced unjust termination after wearing her natural hair at work, refusing to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards imposed by her employer. The incident occurred at American Screening LLC, a drug and medical testing company in Louisiana. It sparked outrage and shed light on the systemic biases that continue to plague corporate environments.

A federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says the woman’s employer at American Screening LLC complained that she previously “‘came in with beautiful hair’ but now ‘looks like she rolls out of bed.” 

Jackson, a Black woman, initially wore a wig with straight hair during her first month of work, as it was uncomfortable and time-consuming to maintain. However, she made the decision to embrace her natural hair, a move that her employer disapproved of. 

Despite being instructed to wear straight hair – the wig – instead, Imani continued to come to work with her natural hair, typically styled in a neat bun.

The company owner’s discriminatory actions came to a head when Imani was fired in late October 2018, merely two months after being hired. Shockingly, she was replaced by a white employee, which led to further accusations of race discrimination by the company. 

“Just as an employer may not ask an employee to change or conceal their skin color, an employer may not ask an employee to change their natural hair texture,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said. “Unfortunately, this form of discrimination continues to limit employment opportunities for Black workers, even today.” 

By firing her for wearing her natural hair, American Screening violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race.

The lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against American Screening highlighted the importance of respecting racial differences in hair and ensuring that grooming standards are race-neutral and nondiscriminatory. 

As part of the settlement, American Screening agreed to pay Imani $50,000 in monetary relief and implement policies to prevent discrimination based on race or hair texture.

This case serves as yet another example for greater accountability and awareness in combating racial discrimination in the workplace. It underscores the urgent need for companies to adhere to inclusive policies that celebrate diversity and embrace the authenticity of their employees, regardless of race or ethnicity.

“No one should be terminated or treated differently because of hair texture associated with their race, under the guise of what is supposedly professional or not,” Elizabeth Owen, an EEOC senior trial attorney who led the case, said in a statement.

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