Florida Man Who Moved to California for Work Is Suing Employer for Ordering Him To Cut His Hair

Toby Hazlewood

His hair wasn't a problem in Florida

A Florida man, Jeffrey Thornton is suing his employer - the Encore Group - under California's CROWN Act. He claims they're discriminating against him over his dreadlocks.

Thornton had worked for the corporation in Miami and Orlando since 2016, but after the global pandemic put him on furlough, he decided to relocate to San Diego to keep his job.

His new manager wasn't happy that he was capable of doing his work and had good references from his former colleagues - instead they insisted that he needed to have his dreadlocks cut if he wanted to keep his job. As Thornton put it:

'If it wasn't a problem in Florida, it shouldn't be a problem in California, right?'

He's now taking legal action against the company.

The CROWN Act

Encore Group have immediately gone on the defensive - claiming they prioritise maintaining a diverse and inclusive workspace. But this may not cut it, given the specifics of the CROWN Act which was accepted in California but rejected in Florida.

CROWN stands for “Creating a respectful and open world for natural hair” and was intended to protect individuals from cultural or racial discrimination based on their hairstyle or length.

California saw fit to accept the act into law in 2019, and it now seems likely that Thornton's case against Encore Group will set a precedent of employees taking their employers to task if they feel discriminated against based on their hairstyle.

What relevance is hairstyle anyway?

Speaking on his client's case against Encore, Thornton's lawyer Adam Kent pointed out the reason why hairstyle should be irrelevant as a dealbreaker against giving someone a job:

“Professionalism isn’t about fitting into Eurocentric norms. Professionalism is about competency… We all expect to be judged based on our abilities and on our character, but Mr. Thornton is being told in this case that it’s different for him.”

As Thornton had proved through many years of successful employment in the state of Florida, his hair played no part in the quality of his work. It's ironic that it took a move to California for someone to take issue with it.

Time will tell what happens with the lawsuit.

What do you think about employers discriminating against workers on the basis of their hairstyle? Is this a consequence of California offering legal protection that led to the lawsuit? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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