Black Worker Fired After She Stopped Wearing Wig, Wore Natural Hair: Feds

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A Black worker was allegedly fired after she stopped wearing a wig to work and wore her naturally curly hair instead, per the Charlotte Observer.

According to a federal lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Imani Jackson was subjected to racial discrimination by her former employer, American Screening LLC, a drug and medical testing company in Louisiana.

Jackson wore a straight-haired wig while interviewing for the company's sales associate position and her first month of work. However, the wig took 45 minutes to put on and was uncomfortable, so she switched to wearing her natural hair, typically in a "neat bun," according to the lawsuit.

The company's owner allegedly told Jackson “her hair was unacceptable and instructed her to wear straight hair — that is, the wig — instead.”

Still, Jackson continued to wear her naturally curly hair to work. According to the lawsuit, Jackson's employer complained that she previously “‘came in with beautiful hair’ but now ‘looks like she rolls out of bed.'"

The woman was fired in October 2018 just two months after she was hired and replaced by a white employee, the suit states. The company's owner allegedly cited "I no longer needed her services" when firing Jackson.

According to a consent decree filed last week, American Screening agreed to pay Jackson $50,000 to settle the lawsuit.

“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,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in a statement on Thursday (April 4). “Unfortunately, this form of discrimination continues to limit employment opportunities for Black workers, even today."

As part of the settlement, American Screening must also establish policies to prevent discrimination based on “any immutable characteristic of race, including hair texture,” the EEOC said.

“No one should be terminated or treated differently because of hair texture associated with their race, under the guise of what is supposedly professional or not,” Elizabeth Owen, an EEOC attorney on the case, said in a statement.

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