Can I sue my security company for denying me work because my hair is in its natural state?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I sue my security company for denying me work because my hair is in its natural state?

They told me my hair isn’t done and I cannot work at this location until it is done or they will just remove me from the site.

Asked on January 13, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

If they have a grooming code or standards, and your hair violates those standards, and it is possible for  our hair, with the correct styling, to meet those standards (there is no inherent medical or genetic reason why it is impossible for your hair to meet the grooming standards), then yes, they can do this, just as  company can have a dress code requiring employees to buy expensive suits or dresses.
If you literally cannot meet the "hair code" and if the code is designed to exclude your race, that may be illegal employment discrimination: for example, a company can't choose to only hire natural blonds, since that would exclude people of Asian, Afrian, Native American, etc. descent. But--and please note: I personally know very little about hair, since I keep my own hair essentially in a crewcut so as to be able to ignore it; therefore, if I am making a factual error here, I apologize--a company could require that hair be straight and not more than a certain length, since it's my understanding that anyone could straighen their hair.

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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