Office dilemmas: If I disagree at my bosses suggestion to dye my hair another color, does he or she have the right to fire me?
Sandra Rawline a 52 year old, until recently, escrow officer and branch manager at Capital Title of Texas was recently let go from her position. Why you wonder? According to Sandra it was the result of her refusing her bosses’ polite suggestion to dye her hair color from gray to some other color which wouldn’t openly betray the fact that she may be an older person.
chron: Rawline said her boss told her to dye her gray hair because the office was moving from Katy to the Galleria area and wanted a more upscale image for its new digs. She said she was also instructed to wear “younger fancy suits” and lots of fancy jewelry.
Wear lots of fancy suits and lots of fancy jewelry? Well perhaps if Sandra’s employer is willing to buy her these fancy suits and fancy jewelry it wouldn’t be too bad. In fact it might have been something that Sandra enjoyed.
But what about the part about dying her gray hair? How did that part of the new ultimatum suggestion go down?
Rawline, 52, whose shoulder-length gray hair also has natural silver streaks, said the boss ordered the dye job on a Thursday afternoon in August 2009 — even offering to perform the coloring.
Rawline, who has been gray since her early 20s and likes her natural hair color, said she refused. And by the following Tuesday, she was told her services were no longer necessary and was replaced by a woman 10 years younger.
“This is who I am,” said Rawline, who recently filed an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit in federal court in Houston.
So in other words her employer’s ultimatum suggestion didn’t go down too well at all it seems.
But before we all go off to the river banks and start screaming how horrible Capital Title of Texas is, let’s find out what they had to say.
Capital Title of Texas said in a statement that it didn’t terminate Rawline because of her age or appearance, but because one of its customers no longer wanted to do business with her.
Didn’t want to do business with her? But let’s back up a second, hasn’t Sandra worked in the industry ever since she started way back as a receptionist in the real estate industry? What happened that suddenly made this particular customer suddenly realize she ought no longer be involved with Sandra Rawline? But then again, life is full of uncanny coincidences and timing. Right?
“Since the customer refused to work with her any longer, there would be no job left for her,” according to the statement, which did not detail reasons for the customer’s preference. The company added that three employees who are 64 years old still work with the customer.
Well that’s good to know that the customer doesn’t mind working with older people, because it doesn’t necessarily seem the employer for their part is. Just a hunch.
But before we jump to conclusions about the decline of corporate America, let’s hear what the company CEO had to say:
Company CEO Bill Shaddock said the allegations are “completely baseless and preposterous” on their face.
“I’d hire a 150-year-old individual if they were worthy,” said Shaddock, adding that he has gray hair, too.
Just out of curiosity, has anyone around the room noticed a 150 year old roaming around? There might be a job opening waiting for them at Capital Title. Or maybe not…
Rawline said Capital Title did not tell her of any performance complaints before or on the day she was terminated. Nor did it contest her application for unemployment benefits, according to Rawline.
“I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed or humiliated for growing older,” said Robert “Bigs” Dowdy, the Houston lawyer representing Rawline.
Real estate clients want to work with professionals based on their experience and ability to explain what’s going on, Dowdy said, not on whether they dye their hair.
So if clients wont to work with professionals based on their experience, why would management insist that Sandra Rawline dye her hair in the first place?
Let’s find out what one employment lawyer thinks?
Elliot Tucker, an employment lawyer with Tucker, Vaughan, Gardner & Barnes in Houston, said employers have wide latitude to regulate the appearance of their employees, such as requiring uniforms, combed hair and tucked-in shirttails.
But they can’t take what’s known as an adverse employment action such as firing, demoting or moving employees to undesirable shifts based on age, sex, race, religion, national origin or disability, he said.
As it currently stands since she was fired 2 years ago, Sandra Rawling has now moved onto another job, working in customer service where she makes $30 000 a year, which is $18 000 less than what she was making when she was politely savagely released of her obligations at Capital Title.
What do you think, should you immediately dye your gray hair should your employer drop by your cubicle and notice the gray strands making their dismal appearance? Or should you just be open to the possibility of being financially moribund just because you weren’t going to have some crack employer tell you how you should or shouldn’t turn up looking to work?
hair has nothing to do with any job….. neat hair is one thing the color of your hair is your choice….. grey or purple doesnt matter……. no employer should have the right to dictate to anyone …..i have grey hair(grey/silver/violet)….. and will not change it for anyone not even a job unless it pays 5 million a year….and maybe not even then
Unless a dress code was part of her original contract, there is no excuse for this. She’s dressed modestly (if not my taste) and her hair color is part of her own sense of self. Would management have the power to say “we don’t like your hair style” and force a woman to get a hair cut or a specific syle, or you must push it behind your ear? Outrageous.
As a woman with grey in her hair, I have my own sense of style (e.g., I like dresses) and I’m proud of every grey hair in my head. If my employer–or any person or entity–told me I had to dye it, I’d probably quit. No one has the right to control me that much.
OTOH, it seems acceptable to demand “business dress” or no shorts, and no bellybuttons. And men are often told no long hair or facial hair. So, I wonder exactly where the line is.
Now, if they offered to pay for a makeover, including clothes, facelift and dental crowns, I might take them up on it. Offered being the operative word.
I’m a Texas REALTOR and have used Capital Title in the past. Since there are SO MANY OTHER Title Co’s to choose from, I’ll be placing Capital Title at the bottom of my list. Shame on you Capital Title. REALTOR’s in my area support our Escrow Agent’s every chance we get.
I feel bad for you Ms. Rawline. It wasn’t your fault what happened to you. If you’re ever in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, we can always use a qualified Escrow Officer like yourself.
I think that while it may seem like corporate fascism for employers to demand a uniform employee, one agreeable, modern, and even attractive appearance and attitude, it simply serves as a commercial interest, and presents their business as fashionable, trend-appropriate, and energetic (reflected by youthful appearances), in a competitive market where a consistent image fights on the front lines. The (questionable) superficial part is that as a society we don’t want to have to look at someone who has a wart on their face or is overweight or has gray hair or dresses badly because it should be a priority for people who deal in the public to meet some social ideals in their appearance, and many of us (considerate people) already do this whether we work in public or not. It is distracting to look at someone who does not try to look somewhat groomed and made up well, it reflects a lack of care for the physical element and for the people that are looking at them…note; this is only acceptable in for brains who get ahead by brains alone, ie scientists, engineers, writers, etc., but even they respond to the clever, eye-candy marketing and salespeople that one encounters as an American consumer. The companies are responding to a beauty demand and standard set by the people, ideals set by era and culture and ruled by natural selection, not the other way around, and something like gray hair can have an negative effect in sales. I like to believe that marketing and ads and media still take their beauty cues from the people’s ideals but could be the other way around, either way gray hair is not “in”. If she was a professor or a lawyer it might work to her benefit, but in her profession it obviously does not. Looks are consistent with individuals who strive for a pleasing response in those whom they are dealing with, and is anything but shallow. These issues are not so surface as hair, skin, weight, and clothing, but root in a deeper consideration for a social/company image, which needs a consistent standard, essentially it is an attitude to conform, please, and one must shed individuality to join this group image…this is capitalism, we enjoy it all untill it bites you in the ass. We all have to make sacrifices for our job, and have to put out money for our job, and give up what we may think is job appropriate to what “they” think and desire from us. If asked to dye your hair for your job, then dye your hair…no harm done. If you are bloody rich or a super genious and can call your own shots then be as fat and ugly as you want, but if not then take shit like the rest of us to keep the money coming in, or just don’t complain when you get fired. I am sick of people sueing cooperation because they can’t be and do and look everything they would do anyways, especially I have been fired from jobs for not helping to move furniture or clean a grease trap for mnumim wage. Does this mean I could wear a mini skirt to work at a major company and sue them if they fired me for looking slutty? Even after they offered to buy me knee length skirts? How come gray hair, or Burka’s, or being overweight, is acceptable, even though it is controllable, when looking rock n roll, or looking slutty, or being high at work, is not alright? Are not they all preferences, personal preferences, but relatively meaningful and with reason to right and respect just as well? Oppurtunists will make themselves victims and find a law suit, while the rest of us with argumaents that are not quite as ugly and pathetic are skipped over. Perhaps they just wanted to get rid of her and figured this would do the trick, there are others to take her job that will wear a g-string to work if asked (and look good in it) so why would they need her being a righteous gray haired old lady, who, if she says she has been gray since her twenties, could have made her husband much happier at least if she made the small attempt to have colored her hair over the years. I am sick of people who work for cooperations to I know if I owned a business, I would want my employees, who were responsible for my bread and butter and theirs, to have the responsibilty to look decent, and to if I asked for them to make a physical improvement then it would also be in their best interest too.
She should’ve just dyed her hair – stupid old bat.
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