California employees have the right to express their unique cultural heritage by wearing work-appropriate clothing that suits their tastes. As long as the clothing complies with corporate dress code, everyone should be permitted to wear culture-specific clothing that makes them feel comfortable. One California oil executive claims that she was ousted from the company, though, because she chose to wear non-traditional outfits to work. Even though the woman’s clothing ostensibly complied with corporate policy, she was repeatedly told by supervisors that her personal appearance both offended and intimidated other workers. The woman is seeking compensation for the retaliatory actions that ultimately cost her job.
The suit alleges that supervisors and managers told the woman that she made her colleagues uncomfortable because she chose to wear traditional African garb known as a dashiki. The woman also chose to braid her hair in a variety of styles that suited her taste; this was similarly scrutinized. In fact, those same supervisors – who replaced her with a less-experienced white man – told her that she should limit her cultural clothing to “culture day” or Black History Month celebrations.
Even more egregiously, workers in a petroleum plant reportedly tied a noose and hung it while the woman was visiting the plant. British Petroleum argues that the rope was misinterpreted, and workers had simply been using it for practice tying knots, but the woman still felt threatened because of the negative implications of the symbol. A variety of other offensive comments also preceded the woman’s dismissal from work, which was reportedly initiated because she did not get along with others on the job. Interestingly, peers had provided positive feedback about the woman just months before during a comprehensive performance review.
Women and minorities deserve the same access to quality professions as all other Americans. In this case, the woman was so harassed that she was ultimately forced out of her workplace simply because she was seen wearing ethnic clothing and filing a complaint against her workplace oppressors. These personal attacks on an employee’s character or job record are never warranted, and they should be punished.
www.courthousenews.com, “BP accused of racism by fired top executive” Jamie Ross, Dec. 05, 2013