A company called Catastrophe Management Solutions has been fighting a lawsuit launched by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over whether or not they can discriminate against people with dreadlocks in their hiring process. They can.
The suit was filed on behalf of Chastity Jones, a black woman with dreadlocks, who had her offer of a job at the company’s Mobile, Alabama, branch rescinded when they saw her hair. According to NBC News, an HR manager named Jeannie Wilson told Jones that dreadlocks were against company grooming policy, saying, “They tend to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about,” when Jones came in to discuss scheduling conflicts during a private hiring meeting.
The EEOC claimed that denying Jones a job was a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964's Title VII, arguing that dreadlocks have been historically used to stereotype African-Americans as unsuitable for the workplace. Thus, this grooming policy must be inherently discriminatory, as it is a style “physiologically and culturally associated” with black people.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided in a 3-0 ruling that CMS was within their rights to deny Jones a job because of her hair, based on a 2014 ruling that said racial discrimination qualifies as such when based on characteristics that didn’t change. Hairstyles don’t qualify as “immutable.” The appeals court stated that CMS has a “race-neutral grooming policy,” and though certain hairstyles are “culturally associated with race” they can be changed. According to the courts, Jones did have the option of shaving her head.