Arlington

Two African-American teens denied jobs at Six Flags Over Texas because of hairstyles

Two African-American teens said they were denied employment at Six Flags Over Texas because of their hairstyles.

Both teens say they were told they would have to cut their hair if they wanted a job at the popular Arlington amusement park.

Brandon Kobe Pierce told the Star-Telegram’s media partner WFAA Channel 8 that he couldn’t get a job because of the long braid that stretches past his shoulders.

“They pulled me aside at the end of it and said, ‘You would have to cut your hair or we can’t hire you at Six Flags,’” Pierce said.

Last weekend, Karis Washington posted on Facebook that her 17-year-old son, Kerion Washington, was turned down for a job at the Arlington amusement park because of his dreadlocks.

“I spoke with the HR Supervisor and she said they gave him the opportunity to come back when he don’t have dreads ... she said dreads are NOT allowed but he can have braids. — and said they are an extreme hairstyle — she also went on and compared them to tattoos and piercings,” Washington said in her post.

The post, which was shared Saturday, had more than 2,400 comments and 16,000 shares as of Friday morning.

Washington, who didn’t respond to requests for an interview from the Star-Telegram, also commented on Facebook about Pierce’s situation.

“The thing that bothers me is they don’t give them the option to put it up ... they just say cut it,” Washington said. “African Americans take pride in our hair and are passionate about our hair, especially being able to grow our hair out. Because not everyone has the same hair. Your hair will never look like mine and mine will never look like yours. Both this young man and my son hair is neat and groomed. Whats the real issue?”

Facebook groups such as SMUNaturals have touted the benefits of healthy and natural hair.

Last year, the New York City Commission on Human Rights prohibited companies from discriminating based on hairstyles but court cases have upheld the rights of employers to deny employment based on hairstyles.

Sharon Parker, a Six Flags spokeswoman, said the company’s policy applies to 30,000 employees at all of the 26 amusement parks. The corporate headquarters are in Grand Prairie.

“We maintain a company-wide grooming code that includes standard uniforms for front-line team members and no extreme hairstyles such as drastic variations in hair color, locks, or partially shaven heads,” Parker said in an email.

“We do permit braids and we also recognize that some team members may request accommodations to our grooming code due to religious, cultural or medical reasons,” Parker said. “We work with those team members on a case-by-case basis to address his or her individual needs.”

The courts have backed that position.

A 2016 ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta stated that a company can refuse to hire someone because of dreadlocks. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for an employee who had a job offer pulled at Catastrophe Management Solutions, in Mobile, Alabama, because she had dreadlocks, according to al.com.

The Alabama news website said the EEOC filed a federal lawsuit in 2013 on behalf of the woman, Chasity Jones, who was denied employment, contending she was discriminated against based on her race but the 11th Circuit Appeals Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

The EEOC didn’t appeal the ruling but last year Jones tried to take her case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices declined to hear the case, letting the lower court ruling stand.

This isn’t the first time Six Flags has been criticized for its policy over dreadlocks.

In 2012, Vice posted a story that asked the question “Is Six Flags Racist against Dreadlocks?” for denying employment to a Penn State engineering student at its Mitchellville, Maryland, amusement park. That incident sparked a change.org petition drive.

Parker, the Six Flags spokeswoman, said the grooming policy is reviewed on an annual basis. For example, male employees may now wear close shaven beards and employees may have small, visible tattoos, she wrote.

“We are an equal opportunity employer and pride ourselves on a diverse workforce,” Parker wrote.

In 2017, Six Flags also drew national attention for flying a Confederate flag — but not the stars and bars battle flag — at its amusements parks as one of the six flags that did once fly over Texas. In response to that criticism, the company removed the confederate flag and along with the ones representing Spain, France, Mexico and the Republic of Texas.

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