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Woman loses job offer when she refuses to change hairstyle

New York workers might face discrimination in a number of ways based on their gender, age, religion or race. A recent ruling from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, shows that proving a discrimination case can be difficult. A unanimous decision from the three-judge panel rejected the claim that the company discriminated against the woman on the basis of race when her job offer was contingent upon cutting off her dreadlocks.

In 2010, the woman received a job offer from Catastrophe Management Solutions. The grooming policy of the company prohibited dreadlocks as a hairstyle. When the woman refused to meet the condition, the company took back its offer of employment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took up her case and created a lawsuit. The EEOC maintained that dreadlocks were culturally associated with people of African decent. Because of this cultural link, the commission accused the company of racial discrimination. The court, however, chose not to expand the legal definition of race to include a hairstyle. The judges applied the precedent that fixed traits such as skin color define race.

Although this case hinged on a single issue, a person who is experiencing workplace discrimination might have endured repeated incidents of illegal behavior. These could include retaliatory acts including wrongful termination. An attorney could inform a person about how to collect evidence to build a workplace discrimination lawsuit. The attorney might also request records from human resources or interview co-workers. If evidence points to a hostile work environment, then the person might pursue damages in court. The paperwork could be prepared by the attorney and presented at a trial. A successful lawsuit might allow the person to regain a job, collect lost wages or impose punitive damages on the employer.

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