A Black man is launching what's believed to be the first lawsuit filed under the CROWN Act in California after he accused his employer of requiring him to cut his hair in order to be hired.
Jeffrey Thornton who has been a worker with the Encore Group, an event company, since 2016, started loc-ing his hair in 2019. After being furloughed from the Florida office, Thornton applied to the company's San Diego office and would receive the job there if he cut his hair. Now, the company is saying the whole situation is a "miscommunication."
He interviewed for the technical supervisor position on November 1 and says that's where he was asked to cut his hair to receive the final offer.
"I was told I was being recommended by my East Coast references and that I should find the transition to be no problem," Thornton said at a press conference held inside of a barbershop late last month.
"All that was left was to discuss the dress code. I expected to have to remove my ear gauges, that's not a problem, [and] I'd be willing to trim my facial [hair]. But I wasn't prepared to be told I would need to cut my hair in order to comply with Encore standards," he said.
Encore's dress code standards reportedly require employees to have their hair above the eyes, ears, and shoulders and pulling it back is not allowed.
Thornton told the San Diego hiring manager that cutting his hair off is a "deal breaker." He said the company told him the position would be available once he made the cut.
"If it wasn't a problem in Florida, it shouldn't be a problem in California, right?" Thornton said at the press conference.
The company went on in the statement to say that they've extended him an offer and says "he appears to fully meet" their "standard grooming policies."
Adam Kent, Thornton's lawyer, said they haven't received an apology from the company and want to pursue the legal challenge to ensure the policies are changed, due to their "disparate impact on African Americans."
"I intend to engage with Encore further to determine if they will fulfill all the requests we have made in our lawsuit," Kent told CNN.
The landmark CROWN Act went into effect in California in January 2020 and prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of hairstyles.