Are you facing workplace
discrimination because of your dreadlocks?

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Workplace discrimination not only means that you never get a second chance to make a first impression, for job hopefuls it can mean that they'll never get a second chance at all because they won't be hired for the position even if qualified.

For those who have faced it first hand there's no need to define discrimination. For those who haven't, here's a straightforward definition of discrimination to add to your vocabulary:

n improper treatment of a person or people founded in prejudice

Whether as a job applicant or employee, it is easy to find a workplace discrimination article online or offline that relates to hair. Hairstyles can make a wide range of prejudices and stereotypes bubble to the surface and dreadlock hairstyles are certainly not the exception to the rule!

Here are a few examples of recent employment discrimination cases...

2000: Federal Express Corporation, better known as FedEx, fires several of its New York employees who refuse to cut their dreadlocks. They cite religious expression but FedEx shows them the door. In 2006, FedEx reaches a settlement which includes recognizing dreadlocks worn for religious reasons.

2004: There is a different discrimination type too, such as that faced by children in schools. Picture your school board transferring you to another school because of a hairstyle. That's exactly what happened in Trinidad when a 12-year-old girl showed up for school with dreadlocks. Like the example above, she too was Rastafarian.

EXAMPLE #3 Updated: October 2010
A moving and storage company in Virginia refused to hire a Rastafarian in 2008 because of he wouldn't cut off his dreadlocks. Tying it or wearing a cap wasn't sufficient so the case is making its way through the district's legal system with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission leading the charge on behalf of Christopher Woodson's rights to practice his religion.

In North America at least, it is the right of an employer to enforce grooming standards that comply with the image they want to portray to the public. You have a right to not comply with company standards that you feel embody workplace discrimination by seeking employment elsewhere. It doesn't sound fair, but the law will typically land on the side on an employer if the hairstyle is being worn for fashionable reasons as opposed to religious ones.

If you wear dreadlocks as part of your religious beliefs (Rastafarianism being the most well-known) then legal action on the basis of employment discrimination can be taken against employers who request that you change your hairstyle. No one should make you chose between your job or your religion.

If your dreadlocks are worn because you like the look then there are ways to avoid the flack that an employer may give you and avoid what you consider to be discrimination:

  • Review the employee workplace policy book
  • Seek out workplaces with an inclusive culture/corporate mind set
  • Maintain your dreadlocks hairstyle in a neat manner at all times either by yourself or with the help of a stylist

With these tips, you'll be able to rock your locks with pride and worry less about job security.


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» Maintaining dreadlocks can help alleviate discrimination

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