Challenging an discriminatory work hairstyle policy

Case name: G v X

A woman with afro hair was told by her employer that she had to wear her hair straightened and tied back. We challenged the policy to clarify if the employer’s policy was discriminatory against black women, which ended in a successful settlement for the claimant. 

Legal issue

Is the hair policy of the employer discriminatory?

Background

A woman with afro hair was told by her employer that she had to wear her hair straightened and tied back. 

Initially she was not allowed to braid her hair. However, her employer later said it was acceptable, but that she would have to carry a letter of permission with her in case braids were queried by managers. 

On two separate occasions she had to show this letter, which caused her stress for which she took sickness absence and then resigned.

Why we were involved

We wanted to clarify if the employer’s policy was discriminatory against black women. 

Ultimately, we wanted to see the policy reversed, as part of our work to eliminate discrimination in the workplace.

This case comes within our work aim where people in Britain have equal access to the labour market and are treated fairly at work.

What we did

We funded an external solicitor to run the woman’s case, and provided a solicitor from EHRC to represent her at tribunal.   

What happened

The case settled successfully before a judicial mediation.

Who will benefit and how

The business we challenged employs in the region of 46,000 employees worldwide. The employer indicated its intention to review its policy and the significance of this legal challenge contributes towards protecting all those employees from discrimination at work in the future. 

Date of hearing

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Court or tribunal:

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