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Court ruling could impact New Jersey employees

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has ruled against a woman who claimed she was discriminated against when her employer refused to hire her. She claimed that the action was based solely on her dreadlocks, and in doing so, the employer was engaging in racial discrimination. However, the court found that the dreadlock ban implemented by Catastrophe Management Solutions was not in violation of federal law.

The woman was hired by the company in 2010 on the condition that she cut her hair to come into compliance with grooming standards. When she refused to do so, the job offer was rescinded. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, this was discriminatory because dreadlocks are mostly worn by those of African descent. The court interpreted other statements by the EEOC to mean that discrimination could also occur if a white employee was fired for wearing dreadlocks in support of a black colleague.

However, case law generally defines race based on skin color and other objective traits. The EEOC tried to argue that race was more of a social construct as opposed to merely biological in nature. Although the appellate court acknowledged that the definition of race can change over time, previous rulings have considered the biological aspects of race as opposed to the cultural aspects.

Although the court dismissed this particular case, workplace discrimination based on race remains a problem around the country. This can happen during the interviewing and hiring process as well as during a person's period of employment. Those who believe that they have been the victim of this type of behavior may want to meet with an attorney to see what recourse they may have.

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