The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against American Screening LLC, a provider of worker drug-testing supplies in Shreveport, Louisiana, alleging racial discrimination when it terminated a Black temporary worker because of her hair. The worker had been placed at the company by a staffing firm on a temp-to-hire basis, according to court records.

Initially, the worker wore a wig made of straight hair to work when hired in August 2018, according to court records. Approximately one month into the job, she stopped wearing the wig. The company owner told managers to “talk to [the worker] about her hair and looking more professional,” the EEOC reported. The owner then told the worker her hair was unacceptable and that she should again wear the wig with straight hair. The worker did not resume wearing the wig and the worker was terminated and replaced with a worker who was not Black, according to the EEOC.

According to court records, the senior recruiter at the staffing firm that placed the worker had advised American Screening’s human resources manager that employers “‘can require employees to have neatly groomed hair, but such rules must respect racial differences in hair,’ and that ‘employers should make sure grooming standards are race-neutral, adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons and consistently applied.’”

American Screening informed the senior recruiter at the staffing firm on Oct. 18, 2018, that they were terminating the worker, according to court records.

The lawsuit comes after the EEOC first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“The law prohibits employers from treating employees differently because of personal characteristics associated with race, such as hair texture or skin color, even when all members of a race do not share those characteristics,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office.