Natural Hair and Your Rights

The first stop on Saturday was the Florida Black Expo at the Prime Osborne Convention Center.  The schedule was jammed pack with all kinds of seminars, presentations, and entertainment. I watched some local acts, listened to a handful of kid entrepreneurs pitch their businesses, and watched the Greek stroll contest. These other activities were fun, but I was there to accomplish one goal: attend a presentation about natural hair in the workplace that was facilitated by attorney Tracy Sanders.

Ms. Sanders is not only an attorney, but she also has a big, beautiful display of natural hair so I immediately felt like she will be relatable and creditable as it would be odd to listen to someone who doesn’t understand the struggle.

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The main takeaways that I received are:

  1. Be sure to read the employee handbook and become familiar with your company’s policy on hair. It may not be discriminatory if the policy clearly lists natural hair, braids, dreadlocks, etc. aren’t allowed.
  2. If you feel you’re being discriminated against and you’re contemplating filing suit, do not tell any of your coworkers. Also be aware that you may be “blackballed” once a complaint is filed because it becomes public record
  3. If you do not wish to take any legal action, it may be best for you to start looking for another job.
  4. Know the federal laws as well as the employment laws in the state where you live. Many states have “at will” employment, which means your employment can be terminated at any time, for any reason, without notice.

I’ve worn my hair natural a time or two before in corporate settings. While working in Washington, DC I never felt uncomfortable, but when I returned to Florida, it became a real issue and several heated debates since relocating so I was anticipating her presentation.  Overall, I think she shared some good advice. Personally, I would probably file suit and risk being blackballed because I think quietly moving to another company isn’t addressing the real issue and the discrimination or harassment will only continue. We must know and exercise our rights like everyone else.

Would you take legal action if you faced discrimination? Why or why not? I’d like to know your thoughts.

 

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