Written by Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
A Southern California company recently submitted a job offer to a black job applicant who was allegedly turned down due to his natural hairdo.
Encore Global, which is registered in Delaware but does business in California, issued a written statement saying the issue was a “misunderstanding” and that the company “regretted any misunderstanding.”
“Maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone has a full sense of belonging and feels empowered to reach their potential are the core values of our business. These values are key to nurturing innovation, collaboration, and better outcomes for our team members, our customers, and the communities we serve,” the company said in a statement.
Last month, Jeffrey Thornton, through his attorney Adam Kent, filed the allegations against Encore Global, LLC, in San Diego County Superior Court. The lawsuit asserted that Thornton was denied employment because of his countrymen.
The lawsuit gave California’s CROWN Act, which was signed into law in 2019, its first legal test.
Shane Harris, president of the People’s League for Justice Advocates, called the company’s alleged action “abuse,” “hair discrimination,” and a “violation of the California CROWN Act.”
“The recording is believed to be the first file of its kind to indicate a violation of California’s CROWN Act,” Harris continued. Drafted by then-California Senator Holly Mitchell, the bill sought to prevent employers and public schools from banning natural black hairstyles, including braids, cornrows, and placement.
Mitchell now serves on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
“We regret any miscommunication with Mr. Thornton regarding our usual care policies – which he appears to be meeting fully, and we have made him an offer of employment,” Encore’s statement continued. “We are constantly looking to learn and improve, and review our personal care policies to avoid potential miscommunication in the future.”
The CROWN Act, also known as Senate Act (SB) 188, ensures protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending legal protections to hair texture and styles protections in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and the California Education Act.
Thornton said he was discriminated against in an interview for the position of technical supervisor at Encore Global, an event management company.
According to the lawsuit, Encore’s hiring manager informed him on November 1 that he would have to trim his hair to be hired for the position. The area above the ears, away from the eyes, had to be cut off, with the shoulders removed.
Harris said Thornton’s hair is styled in places, shaved clean around the sides and back, and is about five inches long at the top of his head.
“Many black employees, including your employees and members, will tell you if given the opportunity that the struggle to maintain what society considers a ‘professional image’ while protecting the health and safety of their hair remains a defining and contradictory struggle in their work,” Mitchell stated in April 2019 when she presented Gathering bill for the first time. “Any law passing a job description immediately disqualifies me from a position, not because of my abilities or experience but because of my hair, is long overdue for reform.”
Thornton’s relationship with Encore Global dates back to 2016 when he first started working with the company in Orlando, Florida.
In July 2021, after leaving the company for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Thornton decided to move to San Diego after being notified that his company would open new positions in the area.
“I started my domestic journey in 2019,” Thornton said.
“If this isn’t a problem in Florida, it shouldn’t be a problem in California, right?” He said during a press conference in San Diego. “I expected I would remove my ear scales, that’s no problem. I would be willing to cut my facial hair. But I wasn’t prepared to be told I would need to cut my hair in order to comply with Encore’s standards.”