A luxury Upper East Side salon in New York City is under fire for banning its Black workers for wearing or afros or braids to work. Now as part of a lawsuit settlement, the Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger will begin to train their stylists on how to care for and style our hair.
According to the New York Times, former employers of the salon filed a lawsuit claiming racial discrimination for new dress code rules that appeared to have been created after three Black employees were hired in 2015. These rules included employees with shoulder-length hair or longer to have their hair pulled back. While just looking at this rule may not show explicit bias, text messages between Sharon Dorram and former manager, David Speer, show Dorram disgusted by the way the women’s natural hair looked.
“Today looked awful,” she wrote, saying that Raelene Roberts, a receptionist “had her dreads down” and another receptionist Regine Aubourg “just got hers to match as long.” Dorram added: “All 3 at desk and we look like we should be on E. 134th Street.”
That, and earlier this year a former Puerto Rican employee told the Times that Dorram didn’t have an issue with her long hair, allegedly telling her, “We didn’t create this new rule because of you. You look beautiful with your hair down. It’s the other girls. Their hair looks disgusting.”
In addition to having to teach Black hair care, the salon must also pay a $70,000 fine, start an internship program specifically for stylists from underrepresented groups and force Dorram and Hershberger to complete 35 hours of community service with a racial justice group “that works to combat hair discrimination and promote black beauty,” the Times noted.
“This resolution is another step toward ensuring that racist notions of professional appearance standards are not applied in New York City,” Carmelyn P. Malalis, chairwoman for the New York City Human Rights Commission, said in a statement.
As The Root’s Glow-Up noted, “back in February, the New York City Human Rights Commission announced it would begin considering practices and policies that discriminate based on hairstyles or textures as a form of racial discrimination (a move unrelated and prior to the establishment of the CROWN Act, which was first signed into law by California in March, followed by New York State in July).”
Hershberger, whose salon has catered to celebs such as Former First Lady Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, said in a statement that she “had no involvement in the allegations” and was “100 percent against racial discrimination”; and favored “a diverse work environment full of authenticity, integrity, and individuality.”
“I am taking all measures to ensure that my views are fully reflected at all of my salons.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Dorram claims she “was extremely sorry that her actions have caused any person to feel uncomfortable in her salon.”
Not surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time that complaints had been filed against the salon or Dorram.
The New York Post reported last year that Dorram allegedly lashed out at Black employees, removing chairs at the front desk to make the receptionists stand as a means to punish them for refusing to sign papers that the salon’s hair policy wasn’t about race.
Once again, Black hair is not “ugly” or a problem. We’re glad this story is coming to light.