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Federal judge rules dreadlocks not protected by law

New York workers might be interested in knowing about a workplace discrimination case involving dreadlocks at work. The ruling in this federal court case means that dreadlocks are not protected by federal anti-discrimination laws.

According to media reports, a woman applied to a company in 2010 and was subsequently hired on the condition that she remove her dreadlocks. However, the woman declined to change her hairstyle in accordance with the company's dress and grooming guidelines and was ultimately not hired. In the case brought before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed that the company's refusal to hire the woman based on her unwillingness to remove her dreadlocks constituted racial discrimination. The EEOC's racial discrimination claim was founded on the grounds that dreadlocks tend to be culturally associated with people of African descent.

However, while federal legislation prohibits employers to discriminate against current or potential employers based on race, the courts have consistently interpreted the concept of race to pertain exclusively to intrinsic biological traits such as skin color. While the EEOC attempted to make the argument that race also includes cultural and social aspects, such as a person's hairstyle, it was ultimately the strictly biological interpretation of race as an intrinsic physical characteristic that was upheld by the court. The EEOC issued a statement disagreeing with the federal court's ruling.

Employment discrimination is always considered a serious violation of the law in both state and federal courts. Individuals who believe they have been the victims of employment discrimination have the option of contacting an attorney who may be able to assist them in filing a lawsuit against an employer.

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