Hair Salon Fired Employees for Complaining About Race Discrimination, Federal Agency Charges
WILMINGTON, N.C. - Regis Corporation, doing business as Smart Style Family Hair Salon, a Minnesota-based company that operates a chain of hair salons, violated federal law by firing two employees in retaliation for complaining about race discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's complaint, Hope Hunt and Annie Mae Locklear worked as hair stylists at the defendant's facility in Pembroke, N.C. In June 2014, Hunt and Locklear were told by the soon-to-be salon manager that she did not want African-Americans working in the salon. In July 2014, Hunt and Locklear told a black candidate for an open position in the salon that they believed the manager did not want to hire her because of her race. In August 2014, Smart Style terminated Hunt and Locklear, claiming that they had lied when they told the African-American candidate she was not hired because of her race. The EEOC contends that Hunt and Locklear were fired because they opposed what they reasonably believed to be race discrimination.
Retaliation for complaining about discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division (EEOC v. Regis Corporation d/b/a Smart Style Family Hair Salon, Civil Action No. 7:15-CV-00151-F) after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.
"Employers cannot retaliate against their employees for voicing their concerns about discrimination," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "The anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII are essential to the attainment of a workplace free of discrimination."
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.