College student says she was sent home from on-campus job for wearing headscarf: 'The rule is belittling and racist'

Hope Schreiber
BIRMINGHAM, AL - JULY 07:  The University of Alabama at Birmingham signage in Birmingham, Alabama on July 7, 2018.  (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, AL - JULY 07: The University of Alabama at Birmingham signage in Birmingham, Alabama on July 7, 2018. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)

A junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) says that her supervisor at her on-campus job sent her home for wearing a headscarf, which was in violation a recent change in the school's employee dress code.

Felicia Layton, a 21-year-old kinesiology student and employee of an on-campus daycare, UAB Child Development Center, shared in a Facebook post on Thursday that she was sent home from work for wearing the back of her hair wrapped in a headscarf. She says she was informed that the look was "unprofessional" and was threatened with termination if something was not done by the following day, meaning that she would have to flatiron her 4C hair. 4C hair is tightly coiled and densely packed.

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“I feel like the rule is belittling and racist,” Layton, who has been working at the daycare since October 2017, told UAB's Student Media. “First of all, it’s not OK because the rule was made only for a specific group of people. You’re not going to tell a caucasian person not to wear a head wrap to work.”

Layton added that the dress code policy regarding headwear is "word of mouth" and was apparently sent out earlier this week⁠ — though she has never seen it in writing.

The UAB Handbook for Faculty and Staff provided on the school’s website reads that employees are only "expected to dress appropriately in neat, clean clothing and practice good personal hygiene." As of Monday afternoon, there is no current mention of headwear in the version available online.

However, according to UAB spokeswoman Holly Gainer, an addendum was made to the daycare's dress code and was issued on July 10.

“The UAB handbook states that employees must adhere to dress standards or uniforms that have been established in patient areas or in any other department or unit at UAB. An addendum was made to the Child Development Center’s dress code on July 10 and was sent to all of the center’s employees via email on the same day. The addendum prohibits employees from wearing wraps, scarves, hats, shower caps or other types of coverings, unless the employee is wearing such for religious purposes,” Gainer said in a statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle. “Personnel matters are confidential and prohibit the university from discussing specific employees.”

“I have not seen it in any policy,” Layton said of the dress code to UAB Student Media. “I have not seen a policy besides the regular UAB, overall campus policy. Even if I did see it and I just don’t remember seeing it, I have not signed my name on anything.”

Layton amended her original post to say that human resources reached out to her and, in a comment on another post, said representatives are “handling it accordingly.”

Paulette Dilworth, UAB’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment but issued a statement to UAB’s Student Media on the incident.

“We are aware of this post and are looking into it now to gather facts,” Dilworth said. “We take concerns like these seriously and will take appropriate action based on our findings. As an institution, UAB is committed to advancing diversity as a core value and to promoting an inclusive campus with respect and dignity for our faculty, staff and students.”

Layton did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.

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