Race & Identity
A New York Hair Salon Is Under Investigation For Allegedly Discriminating Against Workers With Black Hairstyles
Here's a prime example of why NYC needed new guidance banning discrimination based on hairstyles.
New York City-based salon Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger is currently under investigation by the city for allegedly discriminating against Black employees with Black hairstyles.
A New York Times report revealed damning accounts from former salon employees dating back to 2015 about the business's treatment of natural hair. This report comes a few days after NYC announced hair-based discrimination is banned citywide. The salon allegedly told the former employees that Afros and box-braided hairstyles were not reflective of the business's upscale image.
The new law states that unfair treatment against those who wear “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state” will no longer be tolerated.
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Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger salon is known for its high-profile clients like former first lady Michelle Obama. Some haircuts can cost as much as $1,000.
Complaints filed from 2016 to 2018 were revealed in The Times' report. In one of the earliest complaints, David Speer, a white former general manager, said he was forced to implement a hair policy that only affected Black workers.
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When Speer hired three Black women — Taren Guy, Raelene Roberts and Regine Aubourg — as receptionists in 2015, Dorram reportedly asked him to create a dress code.
“Today looked awful. Rail yne [sic] had her dreads down; Regine just got hers to match as long and of course Tarren [sic] All 3 at desk and we look like we should be on E. 134th Street. Sorry, nor(sic) racist just telling you we are on Mad. and 71st.”
In another instance, Erica Ocasio, a former receptionist, claimed the salon owner told her they made an exception for her hair because she was "beautiful." The new rule was intended for the other women who were Black.
“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.”
All three women — Guy, Roberts and Aubourg — quit within weeks of the policy taking effect. Despite the allegations against the salon, the owner has denied discrimination against the former workers.
“Sally Hershberger is 100 percent against racist discrimination and all other types of discrimination in the workplace and beyond,” spokesperson Samira Shamoon said.
Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger is one of four other businesses that is currently being investigated by the city’s human rights commission.
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