Dress codes are not only meant to help guide employees with what is considered work appropriate — they’re supposed to benefit the overall working environment. But sometimes these very guidelines serve to be counterproductive when what is considered appropriate or not differs between two individuals.
For Destiny Tompkins, she simply felt humiliated when she got called in to the manager’s office for — get this — rocking box braids. Tompkins took her grievances to Facebook and her post has since went viral, receiving more than 50,000 shares.
“So today I went into work at Banana Republic at the Westchester Mall and after the district manager (a white woman) popped in for a visit, I was told to go to the office to speak with my manager, Michael (Mike), who is a white man,” Tompkins began her post.
Tompkins said that when she went to the office, her manager (who has since been terminated, update below) questioned her about the dress code. Immediately, she thought there was something wrong with her outfit but her manager sat her down and began talking about her hair instead.
“He told me that my braids were not Banana Republic-appropriate and that they were too ‘urban’ and ‘unkempt’ for their image. He said that if I didn’t take them out then he couldn’t schedule me for shifts until I did.”
When Tompkins tried to explain to him that it was a protective style for her hair because it tends to become very brittle in the cold, he recommended that she use “shea butter” for it instead.
“I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person. In that moment, I felt so uncomfortable and overwhelmed that I didn’t even finish my work shift and ended up leaving. When my friend’s mom called the store to find out my manager’s last name (only been working there a month so I didn’t know it), he refused to give it to her.”
“Box braids are not a matter of unprofessionalism, they are protective styles black women have used for their hair and to be discriminated against because of it is truly disgusting and unacceptable. Make this public because they need to be exposed for their blatant racism and discrimination. There’s no reason why a white person should feel allowed to tell me that I can’t wear my hair the way that I want because it’s too black for their store image.”
Wearing an outfit that’s too revealing is one thing, but where do we draw the line when it comes to the subjectiveness of dress code guidelines — especially when it comes to a protective style that is inherent to one’s culture?
*Update: On Sunday, Banana Republic spokesperson Sheikina Liverpool emailed WABC, to state the manager in question had been terminated:
“This week, one of our store managers questioned an African American employee’s braided hairstyle,” Liverpool wrote. “Our team began an immediate investigation and the manager involved was promptly removed from the store. Today we concluded the investigation and can confirm that the manager has been terminated from the company. Banana Republic has zero tolerance for discrimination. This situation was completely unacceptable, counter to our policies, and in no way reflects our company’s beliefs and values.”
A spokesperson from Banana Republic further stated that “as a company, we have zero tolerance for discrimination … we are committed to upholding an inclusive environment where our customers and our employees feel respected.”
Still, Tompkins said she may soon quit her job and that she and her family are considering legal action as they believe this is discrimination.
Facebook comments have been extremely supportive of the young woman:
“I wouldn’t care if my employee was wearing a burlap bag. It is how the person’s work ethic and character measure up,” wrote Danielle. While Jessica stated: “This is crazy. I am sorry you had to experience that.”