Sandra Rawline, a 52-year-old branch manager at Capital Title of Texas, has been fired from her job because of her gray hair.
When her boss informed her that the company’s headquarters would be moving to a more upscale neighborhood, Rawline was also told she’d need to start wearing “younger fancy suits” and jewelry. (Woman fined $100 for improper newspaper disposal)
And Rawline, who’s had gray hair since she was in her 20s, would have to dye her hair as well. Her boss even offered to color her hair for her. But when Rawline refused, she didn’t know she’d be facing such harsh consequences.
Rawline told the Houston Chronicle that she’d grown used to her natural gray color, and she liked it. “This is who I am,” she said. But her boss wasn’t satisfied, and she was fired from her job.
Now, she’s filed an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit in Houston federal court.
The company says age had nothing to do with the decision to fire Rawline. Capital Title of Texas says that one of the company’s customers, and apparently Rawline’s only client, no longer wanted to do business with her. “Since the customer refused to work with her any longer, there would be no job left for her,” the company’s statement says.
The company’s CEO, Bill Shaddock, has gray hair himself, and called the allegations of age discrimination “preposterous.”
“I’d hire a 150-year-old individual if they were worthy,” he said.
Employers are allowed to regulate aspects of their employees’ appearance, according to Houston employment lawyer Eliot Tucker. This can include anything from making employees wear a uniform to demanding that they comb their hair. But employers can’t take adverse action — firing, demoting, etc. — based on age, sex, race, religion, ethnicity or disability.