16-Year-Old Fired for Having Dreadlocks — but There’s a Twist

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

One of the saddest trends we’ve seen in recent months is people being fired for wearing dreadlocked hair. The latest among them is 16-year-old Tyler House, who was let go from her part-time job at a movie theater outside Country Club Hills, Ill., for sporting locks that fall a few inches past her shoulders, according to Chicago’s WGN TV. She had been growing dreads for five years, but it took less than a day on the job for her to lose employment for having them.

“What do my dreads have to do with anything?” the black teen asked in the news report, recalling how she was pulled aside on her first day as an employee of the Marcus Country Club Hills Cinema and told, “Dreads are not allowed.”

In the video interview below, House speaks of the pleasant job interview she attended — with her dreadlocks in full view — that led to her hiring in the first place. She said she and the hiring manager were “talking like regular people. Like I said, I made her laugh, and she said I had a nice personality.” A week later, she received an email informing her that she’d officially landed the job.

House — an honors student at her high school — had been eager to work a part-time job, and was ecstatic when she earned one. After her positive hiring process, she said that she was not expecting to be pulled aside and fired — at orientation, no less — for a having a relatively common hairstyle. Regardless, she apologized and explained that she planned to keep her hair in a ponytail and under her uniform hat while she worked.

The explanation wasn’t good enough, apparently, and House was told dreads were not allowed for any employee, male or female. Though “confused,” she told the reporter that she took the high road, shaking her employer’s hand and leaving. She then called her sister, Toi Perry, crying over the termination. Perry later wrote on Facebook, “When your little sister calls you crying because a job revokes her job offer on the first day just because she has dreadlocks … it makes your heart hurt a little but they missed out on a intelligent and bright young girl smh #TheWorldWeLiveIn.”

The post was shared more than 1,200 times and received over 100 supportive comments — some calling for a boycott of the movie theater. “I won’t be going here with this type of discriminatory policy in place,” one user wrote. Another user said, “Tell that baby to continue to embrace her Locs!! I haven’t had any issues with mine, but that’s not to say they won’t come. I was sooo excited about this theater opening up, not anymore. They’ve lost my business!!”

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In the wake of the controversy, though, something unexpected happened: The theater seems to have been swayed by the public’s reaction, and released a statement implying that it plans to change its policy as a result of House’s termination. The statement reads:

This week we learned that a job candidate at our Marcus Country Club Hills Cinema was turned away because she wore dreadlocks. Some have expressed concern, and their reaction has led us to re-examine that decision. Marcus Theatres operates in many communities across the United States, and our success is due in part to our talented team. Our associates come to work each day committed to delivering a best-in-class experience to everyone who passes through our doors. Effective immediately, no job candidate will be disqualified because they wear dreadlocks. We are in the process of reviewing our protocols, and will update them to ensure that they reflect our professional standards and commitment to recognizing the diversity of our associates.”

It’s unclear if this statement means that House will get her job back.

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Similar cases have turned out differently. Rachel Sakabo, an African-American woman, said she was fired from her job as a concierge at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel in August because of her dreadlocks. Sakabo had made it through the hiring process and orientation before she was let go seven months into her role. At the time, she told BuzzFeed News that she planned to contact the Department of Labor and Starwood Hotels, the St. Regis’s parent company, in search of answers.

And in September, a woman had a job offer rescinded because of her dreadlocks. Chastity Jones was offered a role at CMS, an insurance-claims processing company in Alabama, but the firm took back the offer because, as she was told by a manager, her dreadlocked hair “tend[s] to get messy, although I’m not saying yours are, but you know what I’m talking about,” according to the Cut. Jones took her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of CMS’s decision not to hire Jones. The court said it did not qualify as discrimination based on race because, by law, no hairstyle can be inextricably tied to a race or ethnicity.

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