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Ruling in dreadlocks case won’t be reconsidered

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A federal appeals court on Tuesday refused to reconsider a ruling dismissing a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission case in which it accused a firm with racial discrimination for refusing to hire a woman with dreadlocks.

The EEOC filed suit against Mobile, Alabama-based Catastrophe Management Solutions Inc. in 2013 charging violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 because the firm withdrew a job offer after Chastity Jones, a black woman, refused to cut her dreadlocks.

In 2016, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the case, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Catastrophe Management Solutions, stating the EEOC “did not state a plausible claim that CMS intentionally discriminated against Ms. Jones because of her race.”

The ruling cites among its reasons: “Our precedent holds that Title VII prohibits discrimination based on immutable traits, and the proposed amended complaint does not assert that dreadlocks … are an immutable characteristic of black persons.”

The en banc appeals court refused to reconsider the case in an 8-3 vote. The majority opinion states the EEOC’s lawsuit “sought to expand the definition of ‘race’ — a term undefined in Title VII — to include anything purportedly associated with the culture of a protected group.”

It said “dismissing the complaint was the correct legal call. Under our precedent, banning dreadlocks in the workplace under a race-neutral grooming policy — without more — does not constitute intentional race-based discrimination.”

The strongly-worded dissenting opinion states the immutable-trait requirement cited in the panel’s opinion “is no longer good law, and Ms. Jones’s panel was wrong to invoke it.”

“In holding that certain physical features are immutable traits of the different racial groups, the Court legitimizes the very categories that Title VII was intended to dismantle.”