Natural hair may be a 'trend' to mainstream America, but for many of us, it's a way of life. It's beautiful, it's freedom, and above all, it's our right. While mainstream America may just be coming around to the beauty of natural styles (shout out Miss Jamaica, my personal Miss Universe), in the workplace some are still not accepted. Many women, not just in corporate America, still feel natural hair is unprofessional and inappropriate in professional environments. Each year we are struck by multiple cases and stories of women being discriminated against in the workplace. As women, we face an increased pressure to look a certain way, to appeal to our male-counterparts, and to deal with these circumstances in silence. As Black women, these pressures are intensified, and our hair is often surveilled in ways that can intimidate us from keeping it natural at work. There has been some public discourse about these issues, but for the most part hair discrimination has been swept under the mainstream news network's rug.
Fortunately, Tracy Sanders, ESQ. has used her career to help educate women about our rights in the workplace. Sanders is an attorney, author, and speaker in Los Angeles, CA. She earned her Juris Doctor at Syracuse University College of Law in 2002, Master of Public Administration at the University of South Carolina in 1998, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of South Carolina in 1995. So basically, she's the epitome of an educated Boss Woman! Her new book, "Natural Hair in the Workplace: What Are Your Rights?", offers insight and education with explanations of the statutes and laws that are difficult to understand without a law degree using real case studies.
The book discusses the history of employment discrimination law, from civil rights VII to contemporary statutes, offers accounts of four cases of discrimination hair cases that went to court, as well as five easy tips for all of us naturals in the workplace. One specific case study that stuck with me was about a woman with dreadlocks who was offered a position at a company, but was told she would have to cut off her dreadlocks before the first day of work.
Tameka Wilson took her case to court, but you'll have to read the book to find out what happened.
Sanders book left me feeling empowered, knowledgeable, and most of all ready to take on corporate America, natural hair and all. I can't wait to pass my own copy of the book along to a friend. You can purchase her book here, "Natural Hair in the Workplace: What Are Your Rights?", where you will also find other useful information about your rights.
Have you ever been discriminated against because of your natural hair at work? Share with us in the comments and let us know how you dealt with it.
**If you have questions about employment discrimination or natural hair in the workplace, contact an employment law attorney in your state. You could get attorney referrals from the state or local bar association. The American Bar Association also provides links to State & Local Bar Associations.