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Court upholds company ban on dreadlocks

Texas employees may be interested to learn that a federal appeals court has dismissed a case against a business that decided not to hire a worker because she refused to get rid of her dreadlocks. The 3-0 decision effectively upholds that the company's ban on dreadlocks does not constitute racial discrimination.

In 2010, the woman applied for a position with Catastrophe Management Solutions and was hired on the condition that she had to get rid of her dreadlocks in compliance with the company's grooming policy. When she refused, the job offer was withdrawn.

In its case against the company, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission argued that putting a ban on dreadlocks is racial discrimination because the hairstyle is culturally and physiologically associated with African descendants. During oral argument, the EEOC maintained that a Caucasian individual could claim race-based disparate treatment if the business enforced the dreadlocks ban on that person for wearing dreadlocks in racial support of African-American colleagues.

However, courts define racial discrimination as actions based on fixed characteristics and skin color. The judge in this case ruled based on this definition and previous court decisions. In a statement, a representative of the EEOC said that the legal team believes the court was wrong to uphold the dreadlocks ban because it could not prove racial discrimination.

Federal laws protect workers, including job applicants, from discrimination and harassment based on race as well as age, color, disability, national origin and sexual orientation. Workers who believe they have experienced discrimination could file formal complaints with the EEOC or take private legal action against the employers with the help of employment law attorneys.

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