HOW TO FIRE

Would You Fire Someone for Refusing to Dye Gray Hair?

A Houston woman is suing her former employer, claiming the company fired her for refusing to hide her age.
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A 52-year-old Houston woman has claimed she was fired from her job over her refusal to dye her gray hair.
 
Sandra Rawline, an escrow officer and branch manager at Capital Title of Texas, went gray in her early 20s. She proudly sported silver-streaked shoulder-length hair.
 
But in August 2009, Rawline claims, she was told she’d have to project a new image to go with the real estate firm’s move to new headquarters in Galleria, Texas. She’d need to wear "younger, fancy suits," lots of jewelry, and dye her hair. Her boss even offered to do the coloring, she told the Houston Chronicle.  

When she refused, she was fired within a week—and replaced by a woman 10 years younger. She’s suing for discrimination.
 
Rawline joined Capital Title in 2003. She twice won an outstanding employee award, in 2004 and 2005.
 
Capital Title has called her allegations "completely baseless and preposterous," and says she was fired because a customer no longer wanted to do business with her.
 
"Since the customer refused to work with her any longer, there would be no job left for her," according to Capital Title's statement, which offered no further information on the customer's refusal. The company added that three employees who are 64 years old still work with the customer.
 
The company's chief executive, Bill Shaddock, told the Chronicle: "I'd hire a 150-year-old individual if they were worthy." He also added that he had gray hair.
 
Eliot Tucker, an employment lawyer with Tucker, Vaughan, Gardner & Barnes in Houston, told the Chronicle that employers have broad license to regulate employees' appearance. In 2006, an appeals court upheld a firing of a bartender in a casino for not wearing makeup. (Just last week, a Harrods shop assistant claimed she was driven out of the famous London department store for not putting on makeup.) 

Do you regulate your employees' appearance? Would you?

Last updated: Jul 11, 2011

COURTNEY RUBIN

Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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