Woman claims her Banana Republic manager said braids too 'urban' and 'unkempt' for store's image

Destiny Tompkins was allegedly shorted on work hours at Banana Republic for wearing her hair in box braids. (Photo: Destiny Tompkins via Facebook)
Destiny Tompkins was allegedly shorted on work hours at Banana Republic for wearing her hair in box braids. (Photo: Destiny Tompkins via Facebook)

A Banana Republic employee claims she faced discrimination over her braided hairstyle and was told by her manager that her look was inappropriate for working on the store floor.

Destiny Tompkins took to Facebook to share her allegations about the Banana Republic at the Westchester Mall in White Plains, N.Y. Above photos showing her hair styled in long braids and red hair accessories, Tompkins wrote that, after her district manager popped in for a store visit, her store manager, Michael, asked to speak with her.

“He told me that my braids were not Banana Republic appropriate and that they were too ‘urban’ and ‘unkempt’ for their image,” she wrote in her caption. She says Michael went on to tell her that “if I didn’t take them out then he couldn’t schedule me for shifts until I did.”

When Tompkins explained that box braids are a protective style for her hair, which dries out and becomes brittle in cooler air, she says Michael then recommended that she use shea butter for it instead of the braided hairstyle.

Tompkins elaborated on the personal trauma she felt from the remarks. “I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person. In that moment, I felt so uncomfortable and overwhelmed that I didn’t even finish my work shift and ended up leaving.” Over 22,000 people have reacted to Tompkins’s Facebook post, and there has been an outpouring of comments in her support. “What they did to you wasn’t right,” said one commenter, while another suggested that legal action should be taken.

And Tompkins could indeed have a case. The U.S.- based nonprofit Workplace Fairness notes that employers are allowed to regulate the hair look of their employees. However, codes for hair and dress may not be legal if they’re discriminatory.

Yahoo Lifestyle has reached out to Destiny Tompkins for comment and will update should she choose to share more details. And we called Banana Republic’s Westchester Mall location for comments from Michael, but a staff employee relayed the message that he was unavailable to speak. Another manager, who refused to give his name, explained that the issue is being dealt with through human resources.

A spokesperson for the brand, Sheikina Liverpool, released the following statement regarding Tompkins’s experience: “As a company, we have zero tolerance for discrimination. We take this matter very seriously and we are actively conducting an investigation. We are committed to upholding an inclusive environment where our customers and our employees feel respected.”

This isn’t the first time a store employee has been challenged for wearing her hair in braids. In April 2016, Toronto-based Zara employee Cree Ballah, age 20, says she was told by her managers that her hairstyle wasn’t a good “look” and the staff proceeded to “fix” her hair.

Some confusion here comes from the questions of what is considered “a professional hairstyle” and who gets to say. Does hair play a part in how well someone can perform tasks at a job? When you Google the term “professional hairstyles for work,” many images of Caucasian women come up. When you Google the term “unprofessional hairstyles for work,” many photos of women of color come up.

Could race be playing a factor?

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