A Chick-fil-A employee named Autumn Williams said she was told to leave work early over her hairstyle. Williams was told her hair color was allegedly a violation of the company’s dress policy. Her manager revealed her blonde braids were an “unnatural” color and sent her home, advising her to return to work when she was wearing her “real” hair color.
“She was like, ‘Hey, one of our supervisors came by and said they noticed blonde in your hair, and he asked that you leave and come back when it’s taken out since it’s an unnatural color to you,’” Williams told WJZY-TV.
The 16-year-old, who has been employed at the Harrisburg Chick-fil-A for three months, believes she was singled out and felt embarrassed. Williams’ original hair is blonde, but her braid extensions are light brown.
“And the guy, when I had orientation, he never said anything about my hair color or it being an issue,” she said.
According to the Chick-fil-A employee handbook shared online, employees’ hair and nails must comply with health department regulations.
“Hair must be clean and worn in good taste so as not to be distracting to guests or fellow team members. Hairstyles must be neat and professional in appearance. Unnatural hair colors or eccentric styles (e.g., Mohawks, shaven designs, etc.) are not permitted,” according to the handbook.
The guideline doesn’t specify any rules about unnatural hair color. Williams said the lack of clarification led to her quitting. She has since filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“I was glad that I didn’t have to change myself to fit into someone else’s … image of what it’s like to be a Chick-fil-A worker,” Williams said. “I was just glad that I was able to just stay true to myself and move on and find somewhere else to work that’s fine with how I look.”
A Chick-fil-A operator reached out to Williams and had a good conversation, the Atlanta Black Star reported.
“The policy was misinterpreted and said Williams was not terminated, and she’s more than welcome to come back and work at the restaurant,” the operator said.
Williams’ mother, Nina Burch, said her daughter’s hair color and style were professional for work and believes the fast food company should implement sensitivity training.
“There was nothing eccentric about the color in her hair,” she said. “So I think maybe there needs to be some sensitivity training about what people can and cannot look like. But that just sounds so crazy to say because who’s to say what anybody can look like based on their race?”