By Sierra Porter
When Atlanta natural hair stylist Chimere Faulk heard about Chasity Jones’ discrimination case, and similar stories, it moved her to create her natural hair care brand Dr. Locs.
African American hairstyles have been a huge topic of debate in corporate America for a long time. Not only have there been issues in the workplace, but also in schools and other places in society.
On May 14, 2018, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to consider a lawsuit filed against Catastrophe Management Solutions (CMS) for allegedly discriminating against Jones for her dreadlocks.
Jones claimed the company refused to hire her unless she cut off her dreadlocks.
According to Jones, after arriving for an in-person interview, she was offered the job by CMS’ HR manager, Jeannie Wilson, who told her that CMS could not hire her because of her dreadlocks, with the reason being “they tend to get messy.”
At the time, CMS had a hairstyle policy about employee’s hair that stated: “hairstyle should reflect a business/professional image” and that “[n]o excessive hairstyles or unusual colors are acceptable.”
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jones for allegedly subjecting her to racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 U.S.
The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national original, and religion. The law also applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments.
The EEOC says race doesn’t have a biological definition and is a social construct, as well as race, is not defined or limited by immutable characteristics. EEOC alleged that race could also encompass:
“cultural characteristics related to race or ethnicity,” including “grooming practices”; and that even though some non-Black people’s hair texture can lock, “dreadlocks are nonetheless a racial characteristic, just as skin color is a racial characteristic.”
Faulk, a mother of two, says that she has also been on the receiving end of discrimination for her hair. She recalls a time she was confronted by an older Black woman who was a secretary at the company she was hired.
“She pulled me into the office randomly and told me that she thinks I would go further in the company if I permed my hair,” Faulk said. “I was younger, and she’s an older woman, so I didn’t want to be disrespectful, but I did take offense to that, so I’ll never forget it.”
Based on her experience and the experience of others, Faulk created Dr. Locs to cater to natural hair and dreadlocks. She started by mixing formulas in her Natural Hair Lady Studio back in 2013 and emerged with a viable product to sell in 2015.
A hair stylist since high school, Faulk says she would braid hair at her uncle’s barbershop.
“I started in 2000, and in 2007 I started managing a natural hair salon here in Atlanta, and I was doing that for about six years,” Faulk said. “I branded myself in my salon as the natural hair lady.”
Having a large clientele of dreadlock wearers, Faulk says that she even her clients “cup” their locs in wigs before going into work. Also, parents were urging their children not to go natural, fearing they wouldn’t be able to get a job.
“There’s a lot of hidden lawsuits that are going on that we don’t know about, but I know because I hear them,” said Faulk. “They can’t make it public because people are giving hush money. We’ve been dealing with this for a long time.”
The first set of Dr. Locs bottles had 75 orders in 2015. In 2016, Faulk made $40,000, and now she’s made over $150,000 in profit.
Faulk sold her Dr. Locs product online via Etsy. Six months later, she wanted to close down the site until a stranger emailed her and told Faulk that she and her husband loved her pre-cleanser.
“It encouraged me that I’m doing something good and someone’s watching me,” Faulk said.
Faulk says that she continues to recognize an issue that Black people with natural hair face in the workplace.
“I saw a problem, and I created a solution,” Faulk said.
This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Voice.