I’m an African American female. I wear my hair in its natural state. My white co-workers and manager make fun of my hair, saying there’s no more slavery and I should use relaxers in it. This is really bothering me. What should I do?

Posted 08-05-2013

Steve Duggan replies:

I’m sorry to hear, first, that your co-workers are not respectful enough to recognize this is bothering you and, second, that your manager is participating, instead of putting a stop to it. These remarks are clearly based on race and maybe also on gender, and I’m sure prohibited by your employer’s discrimination and harassment policies. I recommend that you first tell your manager that these jokes are bothering you and you’d like them to stop. If that’s too difficult, I suggest you go directly to HR and/or go over your manager’s head to his boss. In almost all cases, some notice of the harassment has to be given to a company before one can go to court. You can also go outside the company and file a complaint with the closest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office. And, of course, you can also consult with a local employment attorney. Good luck! I hope it stops soon.

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