The Baltimore-area woman tells WJZ-TV that because her fellow coworkers had different colors in their hair, she didn’t think it would be an issue for her to highlight her own. But instead, she claims she was fired for her hairstyle, as the color violated employee image standards.
“They gave me write ups and they told me I need to take the color out of my hair,” she says. “And they said I couldn’t have blonde in my hair because I’m black. They specifically said ‘black women don’t have blonde in their hair, so you need to take it out,’ ” she claims.
Her lawyer points out that there are laws against having different rules for different employees.
“What’s wrong is that both federal and state law clearly say employers can’t impose two separate and distinct rules governing employee standards–one for African-American employees and one for everyone else. And that’s clearly what Hooters did here,” said the attorney.
While Delegate Mary Washington of Baltimore notes that employers need to be able to set rules about personal appearance and make sure everyone’s grooming habits are hygienic, she’s preparing legislation that wouldn’t let businesses require or prohibit specific hair styles. She notes that it’d be just as bad to tell someone with gray hair they must dye it so as to appear younger.
“Also, there’s some women and men who are told to dye their hair, that if they are grey somehow they are not projecting a youthful image. So I think really further clarifying hair and restricting employers from doing that will help all kinds of people,” said Del. Washington.
A Hooters spokesperson replied to Consumerist’s request for comment, writing in an email: “Hooters of America will not comment on pending litigation at this time.”
It’s up to the state’s commission on civil rights to investigate, which could take months.