Can employers discriminate because of my hair?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can employers discriminate because of my hair?

Last week I was hired as a waiter at a restaurant. New Link Destination
day I went in for my first day of training and was told I could not work there because my hair is in dreadlocks. In the interview she said as long as it was kept and in a bun it would be fine it always is. And looks professional then hired me. She said her manager told her she couldn’t hire me. I have my hair for religious reasons and I feel extremely discriminated against.

Asked on November 29, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Most employmenr relationships are "at will, which means tthat is unless doinf so would violate the terms of any applicable union agreemnt or employment contract. Aslo, no form of legally actionable discrimintion chat a company can set the condtions of the workplace much as it sees fit. In this regard, there must be no discrimnation in the workplace due to, among other things, an emplyees religon. Accordingly, unless it would be an undue hardship on an employer's business operations, they must reasonably accommodate a worker's religious beliefs or practices. This applies to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons, which might include wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks). That having been said, courts have ruled differently on this issue depending upon the circumstances. In order to be sure of your rights you can contact your state's department of labor and/or speak with a local employment law attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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