It's not easy finding a job these days, and apparently, it's not easy to keep one either. A good friend came to me yesterday completely distraught over a situation that is currently happening at her job. After getting all the details and doing some research on my own, I feel compelled to write about it. While this topic is not exclusive to just women or blue collar workers, I very strongly support my friend and this cause.
There are laws that protect discrimination, but only to a certain extent and for protected groups. But as society and the world around us changes, so does the necessity for these laws to stay up to date and relevant. Appearance discrimination is a real thing, and with alternative hair colors, piercings, and tattoos becoming exponentially prevalent in our society, I think we are well overdue for a reevaluation of what should be protected. It should be our right to have our hair and bodies reflect our true selves in a way that makes us feel comfortable and confident as individuals. We should not be discriminated against for expressing ourselves through the way we look based on another's personal opinions when it does not inhibit our ability to perform our essential job duties.
Let's set the scene. You've been working full time for the last year in a management position. When you were hired, your hair was already dyed red and you had a few extra piercings in your ears, but nothing too extreme. Your appearance at the time of hiring did not affect your ability to obtain the position.
Flash forward a few months, when a new company takes over the business. Within weeks, you are presented with new policies, and are being told that you must remove your piercings in order to retain your position. You've had these piercings for years; it's simply a part of who you are, and none of your previous jobs have had any issues with them. Begrudgingly, you oblige because let's face it, job hunting is hard these days. It's a sacrifice you're not happy about, but you're willing to make it work.
Now we jump forward again to this week, and you're blindsided with not a request, but a DEMAND for you to change your hair color, because it is, and I quote, "too bright". You're a natural red head, but you lighten it to enhance the color - something you've been doing for as long as you can remember. And now, out of the blue, it's suddenly not acceptable anymore. This is pretty much the last straw. You feel as though the company is stripping away your sense of self, bit by bit. They are basically making you choose between keeping your job and your lifestyle choices. To you, this demand is as ridiculous as telling someone who bleaches their blonde hair to keep it less sandy colored and more luminous that their hair is "too bright". Or telling someone light skinned who goes to a tanning salon regularly to maintain that bronzed look that their skin is "too dark". Where do you draw the line?
It's the 21st century, the world has changed and we need to keep up with the changes. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. But these are not the only kinds of discrimination that exist. While this article focuses mostly on hair color, appearance discrimination based on hairstyles, tattoos, piercings, and other body modifications is just as prevalent. It's time to stand up for what we believe in and help shape our future into a more accepting environment of people who are comfortable in their own skin (and hair!).
How can you help Stop Appearance Discrimination? Share this story, sign our Petition at Change.org, add your own experiences in the comments, but most of all, just spread the word!