Black server quits job after being sent home for not having 'straight and down' hair

Popular Canadian restaurant chain, Jack Astor's, is getting grilled after a black server quit her waitress job for feeling discriminated against because of her natural hair.

Akua Agyemfra, 20, quit her waitress job at the bar and grill restaurant, after her manager told her that her hair was "unacceptable" and that the restaurant's policy was that women servers' hair needed to be "straight and down."

Agyemfra said she was wearing her hair in a bun when this all happened during her training day. She then proceeded to take her hair out of the bun to show that her natural hair couldn't fall straight. The manager didn't relent and sent Agyemfra home.

Agyemfra said the manager was "really nice about it" but that doesn't change the fact that what the manager did was discriminatory. 

 Akua Agyemfra said she was wearing her hair in a bun like this when her manager sent her home.

Akua Agyemfra said she was wearing her hair in a bun like this when her manager sent her home.

Jack Astor's has since created a confidential channel where employees can air concerns about company policies. Kinda surprising that a chain like Jack Astor's didn't have an avenue of communication like that before, but that's another matter.

Kathyn Long, spokeswoman for Jack Astor's, says the restaurant’s “confidential written standards for female servers/hostesses” specifies that women servers have the “option to wearing ‘hair down’ or up in a stylish do'", so even from a policy perspective, the manager was wrong. 

We also guess ladies are out of luck if they prefer the pixie cut or the Imperator Furiosa look.

Joking aside, a "hair down or up in a stylish do' policy is perfectly fine. If the manager was finding that Agyemfra's hair was getting into dishes, she could be asked to cover it up for health reasons. However, that doesn't seem to be the case.

If a stylish up-do is allowed, why was I sent home? … What made my hair different? My hair was collected, my edges were laid and neat. I am allowed to take out my extensions. My scalp has the right to breathe, too. I refuse to be discriminated against because of hair. That’s my DNA. I cannot change that.
— Akua Agyemfra

It's key for restaurant operators to recognize that genetics play a part in all this. It's not always as simple as wash and blow dry to get straight hair for many people.

They are unaware of the process [black women] go through to make our hair straight, spending hundreds of dollars on bundles, hair products, not to mention the hours and even sometimes days, it takes to style our hair. There’s different grades to black hair. Not everyone has that perfect Solange Knowles ‘fro.
— Akua Agyemfra

Restaurant operators can totally make style policies based on health and safety of their customers and employees. If hair is getting in people's food it's well within a restaurant's right to have the server or cook put their hair up or cover it up.

What restaurants can't do, however, is ask people to change their naturally occurring hair because of aesthetic reasons. That's a discrimination lawsuit waiting to happen.

This incident also shows the importance of managers and employees needing to know the policies of a business. This may be a smaller issue at independent restaurants, but it's still vital that their leaders are knowledgable about the policies so issues like this don't arise.