CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Cases filed by black workers alleging discrimination against their natural hair in the workplace have filled courthouses for more than forty years.
Now more states are trying to protect black employees who want to wear natural hairstyles at work.
News 12’S Taylor Bishop has our special report.
Currently their is a debate if natural hair is acceptable in the workplace.
“Embrace you, embrace what you are born with and work with it. If it suits you, but I don’t think that you should be afraid of it. Just feel accepted, feel confident in being you with your hair.”
Women like Arleatha Swift, a natural hair stylist believes wearing black hair in public can often lead to blank stares, mindless questions, and sometimes difficulty in the workplace.
“I feel like black hair in the workplace can come across a little intimidating, but also to some people it probably may look like the person is unkempt. So they want people to look presentable, look a certain way as presenting yourself to the public in a sense verses accepting a person in their natural state.”
Across the nation we have seen first hand how society makes it difficult for natural hair styles to be accepted.
Like the black teen in Texas who was told to cut his dreadlocks to walk at graduation, or the Mississippi news anchor who was told her natural hair was unprofessional for television.
“I think right now we’re very vulnerable as employees who want to embrace themselves in their natural self. So right now, I don’t think they have anything to stand on.”
Donna Lowe, a HR consultant says this reality of wearing natural hair can be especially uncomfortable when you work in corporate America.
“Being cautious first of all is the word. Make sure your cautious and make sure that you understand what you are doing or saying when it comes to someones hair. Meaning what policies do you have in place. If you don’t have a policy and you decide to terminate or take action that can come back against you.”
Lowe believes staying up to date on current policies and laws is important for any employer and employee to know.
“If you let someone be authenticity them they are gonna produce more, the job satisfaction is going to be there, and the mural is going to be higher.”
When asked why some women are afraid to wear their natural hair, most say it makes them feel like they don’t belong.
“We feel like we’re not allowed too, like it’s something that is not acceptable, not considered professional, which truly doesn’t make much sense because it’s our natural hair.”
But now the government has heard these stories and countless others, and wants to do something about it.
In Chattanooga, Taylor Bishop News 12 Now