A Baltimore waitress was fired after her managers told her she wasn’t able to have blonde highlights because “African-American women don’t have blonde hair.”
Farryn Johnson, 25, worked as a waitress at Hooters in downtown Baltimore for a year prior to her dismissal. But Johnson said she faced discrimination from her managers, who were White, between June 30 and Aug. 30 after she decided to color her hair.
“They gave me write-ups, and they told me I need to take the color out of my hair. And they said I couldn’t have blond in my hair because I’m Black. They specifically said, ‘Black women don’t have blond in their hair, so you need to take it out,” Johnson said in an interview with Baltimore CBS affiliate WJZ.
Johnson’s attorney, Jessica Weber, told the AFRO on Oct. 21 that her client has filed a racial discrimination complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.
“She never had any problems, until she added the blonde highlights to her hair in June,” Weber said.
According to the complaint, Johnson began working as a “Hooters Girl” at the Baltimore Harborplace Hooters restaurant in September 2012. In June, she arrived at work with blonde highlights in her hair. Her manager then told her she could not have blonde highlights because it did not look “natural” on an African-American woman.
“Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford to get her hair color changed,” Weber said
Johnson continued working, and the managers continued confronting her about the issue.
“She was fired and issued a letter stating that she violated employee image standards,” Weber said.
Weber said the suggestion that Johnson couldn’t have blonde highlights due to her race is illegal, especially when there were “white women, even Asian-American women who had their hair dyed colors that were very different from their natural hair color.”
“When you’re representing an iconic brand there are standards to follow,” Rebecca Sinclair, chief human resources officer for Hooters of America, Inc. said in a statement. “Hooters Girls are required to be camera-ready at all times to promote the glamorous, wholesome look for which Hooters is known. Hooters adamantly denies that it has different policies and standards for hair based on race. As a global brand, Hooters embraces our culturally diverse employee base and our standards are applied impartially.”