A Wisconsin teen was told she would not be allowed to work in a pet shop — because of her hair.
How many times have we seen this happen before?
Nineteen-year-old Destini Briggs spent $150 to her hair set in faux dreadlocks. But, on Nov. 17, when she went to clock in her shift at Pet World in Menomonee Falls, her boss stepped in and confronted her about the dreadlocks.
“‘You can’t have your hair like that. You have to take it out,'” Briggs recounted her manager, who has only been identified as only Sara, telling her.
According to the teenager, her hair was perfectly within the employee guidelines, which states, “hair is to be natural color and an appropriate style for a retail setting.”
Briggs hair was her natural color and was in dreadlocks, which is a pretty standard hairstyle for many African Americans.
“I think it’s appropriate for anything. It’s not too long, I can pull it back, won’t get in the way of anything,” said Briggs.
However, the employer would not listen to her and finally, the teenager called her mother, Starla, and informed her about her situation. She was understandably outraged.
“I was very shocked. You’re selling dog food, you’re cleaning bird poop out of a cage. You’re picking worms out of the box. I don’t know who it bothered,” the mother said.
She soon arrived at the pet shop and went to Briggs’ manager for an explanation, where she was quoted the same handbook rule.
“I think that it was an ambiguous statement,” Briggs said. “If you want someone to adhere to the rule book, then it needs to be very plain and simple for everyone to understand.”
The argument apparently escalated and the manager called the cops on Briggs.
Now, Briggs is at home as she has been removed from shift. Her manager has assured her she has not been fired but cannot come to work until she removes the “dread and strings” in her hair.
Briggs’ mother has now taken the fight to social media, where she claimed Sara is discriminating against her daughter.
“This is not just discrimination against my daughter but to all the next daughters and sons that come after her...stand up!!!!! Against discrimination..It will not be tolerated,” wrote Stella in all caps.
“You’re telling us how we, meaning African-American people — because this is more something that is from our culture — what’s appropriate and what’s not,” she added. “This is her freedom to express her black culture.”
People on social media backed the two women.
“Is a beautiful, neat and APPROPRIATE hair do. There are people who actually have their own hair done like this and where it their whole life as apart of their culture....this is a culture based hair do. Are they saying she is not aloud to represent her culture,” user Lisa Toler on Facebook.
“That is very much so illegal! You can sue and she should be able to get unemployment benefits! Her hair is cute! I see nothing wrong with it! If I were to walk into that store I would think she looked professional and very well put together!” said another user.
Dreadlocks are part of African-American culture and one’s hairstyles do not determine one’s ability to do work effectively. Also, if a company has a certain rule regarding appearances, it should be explicitly mentioned in the rule book or before hiring someone.
Forcing people to stay off work because of their hair is not merely about enforcing a policy, it is a form of suppression that pressures black people to conform to whitewashed beauty standards.
It’s discrimination, plain and simple, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.