A Birmingham student was left “angry and upset” after being turned away from a temping agency because she has dreadlocks.
Cheyanne Arnold was told by TempTribe that her hair was unprofessional and did not meet the company’s uniform standards.
“It’s discrimination,” the 22-year-old told HuffPost UK. “My hair is part of me.”
According to the TempTribe website, the company has 1,500 staff and around 3,400 clients, supplying waiters, bar staff and porters for events.
Calling itself “London’s favourite hospitality staff supplier”, it lists The Body Shop, Fortnum & Mason, Wembley Stadium and Capital FM as clients.
Arnold, a Birmingham City University undergraduate, said she called the company when she applied for a job after noticing an “ultimate guide” to presentation on the TempTribe website, which appeared to ban dreadlocks for men, as well as braids and ponytails.
The guide also insisted men must be “clean shaven”, a directive that could exclude people who grow their beards for religious reasons, such as Muslims.
When Arnold revealed to the company that she had dreadlocks, she says she was told in a phone call that her bid to work for the agency would not be taken any further.
Arnold, who has worked as a waitress at the Royal Ascot with another temp agency, said: “Why would my hair not go with uniform standards?
“If I can put it in a bun, and it looks fine – what’s the problem? It’s crazy, it’s just crazy.”
She continued: “I even made a joke with them and said: ‘If I was to cut my hair off, would that you let me work for you?’ And they were like: ‘Yeah, that would be fine.’
“At the time, I was really upset. I had never gone through that before. I was just thinking: ‘How would someone else feel if say they had a headscarf, how would they feel if you told them no?’”
After demanding further explanation over email, the Applied Theatre student was told: ”First of all, to make it totally clear, we have always accepted braids.
“Dreadlocks have been an area of difficulty as many of our clients in hotels have not allowed them,” the email, dated June 19, read.
However, the representative for TempTribe told her that it was an “old rule that needs shaking up”, saying the company had a “small pool that is happy to be more inclusive”, and offered to “make some time to see you this week if you’re around”.
HuffPost UK contacted TempTribe with the allegations on Monday afternoon, including a screenshot of the ‘ultimate guide’ as it had first appeared on the website.
TempTribe declined to comment on the claims.
However, the guide appeared to have been changed on the website just four hours later, with the apparently new version stating that exceptions could be made on rules around men’s hair “on religious grounds”.
The incident follows a number of cases of black women alleging that other companies have discriminated against them for their hair, with one London employee telling the BBC she had been told not to come to work with an afro.
Arnold said would not work for the company after the way they had treated her. “The money is not worth what they said to me,” she said. “I would rather be broke for a couple of months than work for a company that discriminates against certain hair or the way you look.”
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