Locked & Professional: I Have A Job! Do My Locks Have To Go!??
The first things you could do is to refer back to the previous blogs and realize that this ruling needs time to work itself out, all rulings do. It can take approximately 12-24 months for Human Resources to implement employment laws in the workplace. The workplaces that are diligent will continue to act quickly, using this ruling as a reason to block out diverse candidates, just as Catastrophic Insurance has done. If this is what you are facing as an employee or a prospective employee, the first thing to assess is what kind of work environment you are in. If a business has a work culture that seems less accepting of diverse candidates and employees, and you have your tightly coiled hair groomed into locks to compliment your hair texture, please realize, you may not want to be a part of that type of work culture. This environment may represent a work dynamic that is insensitive to those with ethic differences and, more often than naught. would not have leadership that supports diverse voices at the table.
When there were diverse leadership opportunities present within an organization, a workplace culture will mirror cultural differences, respecting that the wearing of locks is a grooming choice for ethnically diverse employees that have made a choice, rooted from a place of necessity, respect. If an employee is professional, no matter the ethnic group, grooming and neatness are par for the course and reflective of that work environment, without need for legislative interference. Locks are a matter of objective preference. An employer and employee can most definitely have the right to not prefer locks. However, for an employer and an appellate court to dictate whose grooming habits should be rewarded with employment man anticipate these entities will likely be found overly ambitious at best upon further appeals.
Progressive employers have enough experience with diverse candidates and employees to see their employees as unique individuals, living complementary lifestyles that compliment ethnic differences, lifestyles, professionalism and even hair - structures. Employers that are progressive will place grooming preferences that differ along cultural lines with the employees they hire, not depending upon the government to babysit, rule and control the grooming habits of its 'constituents.' A progressive employer will set the tone for an environment that promotes and hires employees the reflect its mission, with the room for the employee to execute grooming preferences that are neat, clean and within company policy.
The 21st Century economy is progressive and regardless of who is in the Oval Office or sitting on the Appellate Courts, diverse candidates with unique perspectives and a drive to create opportunities in the face of obstacles are a unique asset for companies facing challenges during economic upheavals. Companies that will remain viable, are solution oriented requiring all minds at the table contributing towards solutions that generate business, increase the bottom line. Progressive companies do not create false barriers that impede, control and restrict employees. Progressive organizations provide an environment that rewards diverse and creative minds that come in all shades, hues colors and yes, without marginalizing and alienating workers along hair texture lines.
Like it or not, we are charging into the second decade of the 21st century! At first, when I heard and read about the ruling, my first inclination was to tie my hair back into a bun and never let my locks see the light of day Monday through Friday; and, I did that for about a week. Then, my head started to hurt from the hair pins, it got cold outside, I needed to put a hat on my head and I said bump it. I wear my locks out, rocking curls, letting them flow and flop as I walk in the wind, the rain, the sun and the moon. I embraced that I am the change that I want to see. And, regardless of the US District 11 decision; regardless of the electoral college dictating the Presidential Candidate, regardless of the supremacist views of the cabinet he appoints, I choose to walk tall, and represent who I have been created to be - A Brown Girl with Nappy Hair - now, a professional woman who wears her tightly coiled hair in locks. My locks are neatly defined, clean and definitely not 'messy' as endorsed by US District Court 11. My locks are a structural opportunity to protect the hair that I am naturally born with in a fashion that locks my tightly coiled curls into a style that is neat and uniform, while being true to my culture and lifestyle, who I was created to be, for better or worse. I prefer to find employers that appreciate my diversity and has the foresight wisdom and knowledge to realize that anyone that does not comb their loose hair can have messy hair. An employer that is open to understanding that locks are hair that are groomed and locked into place, unlike free, loose hair of any texture. An employer that realizes that locks are so neat, they do not require combing, they are locked. strands. of. hair.
In my case, I have basic requirements in the work environment. Besides enjoying my work and work contributions, I need to know that I live and work in an environment that welcomes me and does not reject the unique diversity that I bring to the table, withinmy employee policy guidelines. Next, I double check with Human Resources for the latest policies, updates and counsel. Then I review the changes with one of our employee relation lawyers (see more here). I am listening for confirmation on the company policy and guidelines as it pertains to my grooming choice(s). And, I am taking action by communication and speaking my concerns.
In my place of employment, I'm ensuring that policies and guidelines align with my experience on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I see women and men with locks. I see muslims with head hijab I see a population of employees that matches the population we service, overall. That continues to assure me that I'm employed by an employer that walks the talk. But, I have a responsibility to myself, my community and my employer. My responsibility is to remain involved, voice my concerns, stay engaged with policy decisions/announcements and to pull aside leaders and educate when needed.
For those in situations where the employers do not see value in a diverse workforce, an employer that enacts grooming laws that are stifling and divisive, it may be reasonable to find another employer that appreciates the diversity you bring to the table. If it is an option, reconsider your employment options. The economy has picked up and the 'Help Wanted' sign continues to hang on many doors. If you live in FL/ GA/ AL now and the ruling impacts you, after you do your homework, speak up! Make an appointment with employee engagement services/ HR and applicable leadership. Be proactive, not reactive. Many times, explaining locks to others is an educational opportunity that may need to be communicated constructively.
Contrary to US District Court 11's ruline and Catastrophic Management, employers engaged in a diverse workforce representative of the 21st century need to hear that tightly coiled hair that grows out of the head of those of African descent tightly coiled, not straight, not by choice but by cultural, ethnic distinction. The choice to mold tightly coiled hair into a style may be a necessity for some that seek uniformity and control of coiled tresses. Often times, folks in our everyday life just don't understand the cultural differences of the texture of tightly coiled hair: that our hair grows up, not down, tangles up, not lying straight, shrinks, not falls, knots and clings, appears cars, is the most fragile hair texture on the planet. The simple fact that natural hair that grows out of our head demands protective styles with minimal manipulation to prevent breakage, encourage growth via that protection, keeping it neat and appropriate and healthy. Remaining healthy should be a choice that all have, even those with tightly coiled hair. And, locs are the ultimate protective hairstyle!
So what can we do?
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
Get involved with an HR leadership committee or Diversity and Inclusion Committee to stay abreast to HR trending topics that impact employment policies. Befriend leadership, set up an appointment to meet with the policy makers to voice concerns and set expectations. Be open, educate others, use this blog, The Knotty Truth Books, other resources found on www.theknottytruth.org in the right hand menu to help. If all else fails, map out a Plan B exit plan. Everyone should always have a Plan B anyway. Complacency on any job is not wise. Keep networking and finding workplaces that embrace your uniqueness. When we are not true to ourself, our culture and who God has created us to be, when we sell out to cultural 'correctness' fitting the blue print of another ethnicity with immutable traits that are contrary to tightly coiled hair, rejecting our God-given DNA code, we may find the price to be excessive, costing our loss of self and loss of acceptance in being unapologetically 'me'.
Be Professional & Keep it Knotty,
Michele George, MS, MHA, CRC, CNHC
The Knotty Truth Series of Books can be purchased online at various outlets including Amazon.com or Createspace.com.
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