Ban on Pink Hair: In today’s world, one might assume that one’s hair color would have no impact on their employment. However, Emily Benschoter, a 29-year-old woman, has been compelled to wear wigs at work in order to conceal her pink hair.
“Dyeing my hair was not an option for the job I work 40 hours a week,” Benschoter expressed. “I am someone who values self-expression, and I feel incredibly confident with pink hair. So, I devised a solution to maintain both my job and my vibrant hair.”
Benschoter revealed that she secured a front-of-house position in the hospitality industry without an in-person or video interview. As a result, her new manager had no visual reference of her appearance. Nonetheless, she decided to address the matter of her hair prior to her first shift to determine if it was permitted. It turned out that pink hair was not acceptable for the staff, prompting Benschoter to propose wearing a wig.
Since then, Benschoter, hailing from Georgia, has been sharing TikTok videos showcasing her collection of wigs. One particular video garnered over 574,000 views and 40,000 likes, with the on-screen text humorously stating: “When you have pink hair, but corporate disapproves, so you wear terrible wigs.”
“It’s dehumanizing that I’m not accepted for who I am because of the color of my hair. It’s incredibly superficial that my hair color poses an obstacle,” she lamented.
“I prefer my pink hair; it’s an integral part of my identity. That’s why I deliberately choose eccentric wigs, which is quite amusing,” she added. “The more outrageous the wig, the better. It serves as a conversation starter with customers who find it absurd that I have to conceal my pink hair.”
Hair-related conflicts in the workplace have been a persistent issue for years, particularly affecting Black individuals. In 2019, the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) was established in California to combat “discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools.”
However, as Benschoter’s hair color is not natural, the provisions of the act do not apply to her situation.
To gain further insights on the subject of colored hair in the workplace, reached out to Gena Cox, an organizational psychologist. Cox, who serves as an executive coach, shared, “Companies disproportionately focus on employees’ visual attributes when they hold preconceived notions about what an ‘ideal employee’ should look like, and believe that their clients and customers share the same biases.”
“This longstanding issue persists even when individuals embrace their natural hair. For Black women, it has been necessary to pass a law, the CROWN Act, allowing them to wear their hair as it naturally grows. Colored hair elicits strong reactions for similar reasons: some associate it with being ‘different’ or less ‘professional,’ or consider it suitable only for specific roles, such as those in the creative arts. Others find visible forms of self-expression ‘distracting.'”
Cox, the award-winning author of Leading Inclusion, concluded, “Ultimately, rejecting an employee’s colored hair reflects bias and indicates a lack of inclusivity in the workplace.”
TikTok users expressed astonishment upon discovering that Benschoter’s workplace permits the use of eccentric wigs but prohibits pink hair.
One user questioned, “They think this is better?” Another commented, “Malicious compliance.”
“Please tell me that the SECOND you clock out, you’re carrying your wig in your hand to make it SO CLEAR,” added another user.