Illustration for article titled Supreme Court May Have to Decide if Banning Dreadlocks Is Racist
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An Alabama woman who lost her job after her employer said that dreadlocks “tend to get messy” has petitioned the Supreme Court to decide if the company’s policy is discriminatory.


In 2010, Chastity Jones applied for a job at Catastrophe Management Solutions, an insurance-claims-processing company in Mobile, according to After Jones was hired, she met with a human resources manager about a scheduling conflict. As she was leaving, court records state, the HR manager informed her that she couldn’t work for CMS with dreadlocks. “They tend to get messy,” the manager reportedly said. “I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about.”


CMS withdrew the job offer after Jones refused to cut her hair, so she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 2013 the EEOC filed a lawsuit against the company on behalf of Jones, citing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion.

Jones lost her federal lawsuit and appealed to an appeals court in 2016, which affirmed the lower court’s decision. In its ruling, the appeals court said, “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.”

CMS contends that Jones should not be able to appeal to the Supreme Court because she wasn’t technically a party in the EEOC lawsuit against CMA. The company also contends that Jones “has no established right to maintain a chosen hairstyle in the face of an employer’s contrary, race-neutral policy,” which says that:

All personnel are expected to be dressed and groomed in a manner that projects a professional and businesslike image while adhering to company and industry standards and/or guidelines. ... [H]airstyle should reflect a business/professional image. No excessive hairstyles or unusual colors are acceptable.


The Supreme Court has not made a decision on whether it will hear the case during the next session. Meanwhile, I’m sure if you sat on a couch at CMS, you wouldn’t leave with random locks of blond hair on your shirt.

You know white hair doesn’t “tend to get messy.”

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