A Black job applicant has filed a lawsuit against his employer after he was told to cut his dreadlocks in order to get the job but the company claims it was a ‘miscommunication,’ the Daily Mail reports.
Last Monday, Jeffrey Thornton sued the Encore Group, an event company, after being informed that the San Diego office would deny him employment unless he cut his hair.
Thornton, was employed with the company since 2016 in Florida, but decided to relocate to the San Diego location after being furloughed at Florida location.
Back in early November, during the interview for the technical supervisor position, the hiring manager told him that his hairstyle had to be changed to receive an official offer of employment.
“I was told I was being recommended by my East Coast references and that I should find the transition to be no problem,” Thornton said at a press conference on November 30.
“All that was left was to discuss the dress code,” he added. “I expected to have to remove my ear gauges, that’s not a problem, [and] I’d be willing to trim my facial face. But I wasn’t prepared to be told I would need to cut my hair in order to comply with Encore standards.” The company told Thornton that after he cut his hair, the position would be available to him.
When news broke about Thorton’s lawsuit, Encore said it was a “miscommunication” and “maintaining a diverse and inclusive workspace’ is a part of its “core values.”
Thornton told the San Diego hiring manager that asking him to cut his hair was a “deal-breaker.” Reportedly, Encore does not allow employees to tie their hair back; the company requires that its employees’ hair be above the ears, eyes, and shoulders, CNN reported.
‘If it wasn’t a problem in Florida, it shouldn’t be a problem in California, right?’ Thornton said.
Thornton confirmed that many supervisors “wore locks” in the Orlando and Miami offices and he “expected to be deemed professional.”
Adam Kent, Thornton’s attorney, said that Encore’s actions towards his client violated the CROWN Act, which prohibits discrimination on race-based hairstyles (CROWN stands for: Creating a respectful and open world for natural hair).
While the CROWN Act is not a law in every state, California was the first state to recognize the legislation.
Encore addressed their “miscommunication” in an official statement.
“Maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace where every individual has a full sense of belonging and feels empowered to reach their potential are core values of our business,” Encore’s statement read. “These values are key to fueling innovation, collaboration, and driving better outcomes for our team members, customers, and the communities we serve,” the statement continued.“We regret any miscommunication with Mr. Thornton regarding our standard grooming policies—which he appears to fully meet and we have made him an offer of employment.”
Along with a commitment to changing their policy on natural hair, Thornton has requested that the company apologize to him which Kent says his client has yet to receive.
“While we are glad that Encore Global has acknowledged its error in denying my client’s employment due to his hairstyle, we have yet to receive a formal apology or a commitment to changing the grooming policy that has had a disparate impact on African Americans,” Kent said.
Although Thorton said the job is still available to him, he did not mention if he would reconsider Encore’s offer.