HARRISBURG, N.C. (WJZY) — Sixteen-year-old Autumn Williams is still trying to understand how the blonde hair color in her braids was deemed unnatural at her Chick-Fil-A job.
She says she felt singled out and embarrassed.
She’d only been working at a Chick-Fil-A in Harrisburg, North Carolina, for three months before she was pulled aside for an apparent uniform violation. What she was told caught her caught off guard.
“She was like, ‘Hey, one of our supervisors came by and said they noticed blonde in your hair, and he asked that you leave and come back when it’s taken out since it’s an unnatural color to you,'” Williams said.
This is the color Williams says she had at the time:
“I don’t know what blonde is in my hair because my braids were brown, and there wasn’t blonde in them, (even though) my natural hair color is blonde,” Williams said. “And the guy, when I had orientation, he never said anything about my hair color or it being an issue.”
She claims other coworkers also had unnatural hair colors, but she was singled out.
When she asked her human resources supervisor for clarification about unnatural hair colors, he referred Williams to the employee handbook.
But the handbook doesn’t specify what unnatural colors are.
She says the lack of clarification led to her quitting.
Chick-Fil-A responded to a request for comment, saying:
“The operator reached out to (Autumn) Williams today and had a good conversation.
In further detail, the operator explained that the policy was misinterpreted and said Williams was not terminated and she’s more than welcome to come back and work at the restaurant.”
“I was glad that I didn’t have to change myself to fit into someone else’s … image of what it’s like to be a Chick-Fil-A worker,” Williams said. “…I was just glad that I was able to just stay true to myself and move on and find somewhere else to work that’s fine with how I look.”
“It’s a protective style for us,” said her mother, Nina Burch. “There was nothing eccentric about the color that was in her hair. So I think maybe there needs to be some sensitivity training about what people can and cannot look like. But that just sounds so crazy to say because who’s to say what anybody can look like based on their race?”
Since her decision to quit, Williams says she’s filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.