April 10, 2024

Company To Pay $50K After Firing Black Employee For Wearing Natural Hair

American Screening, a drug and medical testing supplies distributor in Louisana, has agreed to pay $50,000 to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The case centered around Imani Jackson, a Black employee who was fired after she decided to wear her natural hair to work.

Fired over her wearing natural hair

Imani Jackson’s daily routine involved spending 45 minutes each morning concealing her natural hair under a cap and gluing on a wig with straight hair.

This routine wasn’t just time-consuming; it became unbearable due to the hot and humid Louisiana climate. When Jackson decided to wear her hair in a neat bun instead, she was criticized for not looking “professional” enough.

Read: From LinkedIn To The Law: How Black Women Are Tackling Hair Discrimination

Her natural hair type is classified as “4-A,” which means it’s tightly curled. Unlike Jackson, other employees with less curly hair were allowed to style their hair in buns or ponytails without issue.

The owner told Jackson her hair was unacceptable and that she should begin wearing the wig with straight hair again. When she refused, she was fired.

The company claimed they no longer needed her services and hired a white employee for her position.

the EEOC Lawsuit

The EEOC lawsuit claimed that American Screening’s actions violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits firing employees or subjecting them to different terms and conditions of employment because of their race.

“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,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows.

“Unfortunately, this form of discrimination continues to limit employment opportunities for Black workers, even today.”

As part of the settlement, American Screening is required to implement policies that forbid discrimination based on race or any immutable characteristic of race, including hair texture.

The settlement also mandates company-wide training on Title VII, racial discrimination related to hair texture, and the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies.

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)