NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - African Americans choose to wear protective styles, like wigs, extensions, and braids for a variety of reasons. One of the many reasons is to let their natural hair grow out and be healthy.
It's why Angelica Williams says she chose to wear Black and Blonde wigs. But according to Angelica, her wigs weren't tolerated by her employer and got her fired.
"I decided to wear this wig that I had on today. I wore it to work on a Monday. And no one said anything to me. But that Tuesday, I ended up getting a call," Williams said.
"She was like, well, we're going to have visitors in, so make sure you dress a little professional. And I was like, okay. Understandable. And she explained to me that I would not be able to wear this wig," Williams said.
She admits to getting emotional when they addressed her but says she did later try to smooth things over.
"As a Black woman, I already struggle with fitting in, in corporate America as is. And [I am] trying to be heard. And trying to make sure I'm doing what I'm supposed to do," Williams said.
But in the end, she was told don’t come back. News4 reached out to Angelica’s old job about her situation. They released the following statement:
"Ms. Williams recently received counseling regarding various performance-related issues, including her failure, and subsequent refusal, to perform assigned duties and multiple violations of the office dress code. She had received a warning on these same issues in February. During this counseling discussion, Ms. Williams stated twice that she resigned, and we accepted her resignation. Ms. Williams’ allegations of “hair discrimination” are incorrect. The CROWN Act, which has not been enacted in Tennessee, generally permits employees to wear their hair naturally. We have always allowed this, and we never said anything to Ms. Williams about her natural hairstyles. However, we do require our employees to conduct themselves in a professional manner and perform the essential functions of their job. As is her right, Ms. Williams chose not to follow these basic rules."
William disagreed, filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When it comes to protecting employees against hair discrimination, Tennessee is now one of 22 states that have filed or pre-filed Crown Act legislation.
“What the Crown Act does, is it stops discrimination basically for people who wear, of color, who wear their natural hair or protective styles when they go to work,” State Rep. Antonio Parkinson said.
State Representative Antonio Parkinson brought the Crown Act Legislation to the State Capitol last year, but because of the pandemic, it was put on hold. Now, two Shelby County lawmakers, State Senator Raumesh Akbari and Representative Karen D. Camper are sponsoring the crown bill in 2021, to create “a respectful and open world for natural hair.”
"Protective styles, and I think that has to do with a little bit of cultural competency and understanding, but, there are different ways, different folks have to manage their hair. Protective styles is one way to allow a person’s hair to grow without being disturbed. And that includes, wigs, weaves and braids,” Sen. Akbari said.
Parkinson is passionate about this issue. He said he experienced hair discrimination first hand.
"At one point at the fire department, they came to me and threatened me with disciplinary action and loss of money pay grade. Based on the way my hair was, if I didn't change how my hair was at the time," Rep. Parkinson said.
Williams says she wants to use her experience to help others.
"Speak up. Talk about it. Cause there are people out there that want to hear your story! That want to know. And are going to support," Williams said.