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A catastrophic insurance claims company is being sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly discriminating against a black job applicant by rescinding a job offer after she refused to cut off her dreadlocks, the agency said Monday.
The EEOC said Monday that after completing an online job application for Mobile, Ala.-based Catastrophe Management Solutions Inc., Chastity Jones was among a group of applicants selected for a group interview in May 2010. At the time of the interview, Ms. Jones, who is black, had blond hair that was “dreaded” in neat curls, or “curlocks,” the EEOC said in its statement.
Ms. Jones was offered a position as a customer service representative. But later that day, a manager told her the company did not allow dreadlocks, and that she would have to cut them off to obtain employment. The manager rescinded the job offer when Ms. Jones refused to cut her hair.
The EEOC contends that the company's ban on dreadlocks and the imposition of its grooming policy on Ms. Jones discriminates against African-Americans based on physical and/or cultural characteristics, and has charged Catastrophe Management with violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The agency, which filed suit in federal district court in Mobile, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.
Delner Franklin-Thomas, district director for the EEOC's Birmingham district office said in a statement: "Generally, there are racial distinctions in the natural texture of black and non-black hair. The EEOC will not tolerate employment discrimination against African-American employees because they choose to wear and display the natural texture of their hair, manage and style their hair in a manner amenable to it, or manage and style their hair in a manner differently from non-blacks.
“Hair grooming decisions and policies (and their implementation) have to take into consideration differing racial traits, and cannot penalize blacks for grooming their hair in a manner that does not meet normative standards for other races."
A company spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.