In yet another example of hair bias against Black women, a former African-American employee at Banana Republic filed a $1 million lawsuit because of discrimination.
Destiny Tompkins, 19, made the formal complaint in state Supreme Court in New York Monday after she was suspended from a branch store at the Westchester Mall in White Plains over her box braids last month, the New York Daily News reported.
The teen said her ex-manager, who is White, scolded her for wearing the braids that he said were too “urban” and “unkempt.” The manager threatened to take her off the work schedule, she said in a detailed Facebook post, if she didn’t comply with the order.
“I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person,” Tompkins wrote. “In that moment, I felt so uncomfortable and overwhelmed that I didn’t even finish my work shift and ended up leaving.”
Like most Black women caught in the claws of discrimination, the teen had to explain her hairstyle.
“Box braids are not a matter of unprofessionalism, they are protective styles black women have used for their hair and to be discriminated against because of it is truly disgusting and unacceptable,” Tompkins wrote in the post. “Make this public bc they need to be exposed for their blatant racism and discrimination. There’s no reason why a white person should feel allowed to tell me that I can’t wear my hair the way that I want bc it’s too black for their store image.”
It should seem obvious that Black hair is tied to African heritage and a women’s identity, a fact that should be weighted to avoid demeaning situations like the one involving Tompkins. But though the teen explained her position, she was still suspended over the style.
And after the teen’s Facebook post went viral, the offending manager was fired, the Daily News reported. However, the brand’s regional manager, who visited the store in question before the direct supervisor suspended Tompkins, faced no punishment.
Banana Republic and its parent company Gap Inc, as well as former store manager Michael Gennis and regional manager Jill Matejunas, are mentioned in the suit. The company refused to “comment on pending litigation,” but officials doubled down on pointing out its zero-tolerance discrimination and harassment policy, according to the Daily News.
SOURCE: New York Daily News
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