Teen Girl Reveals She Was Sent Home From Her Fast Food Job Because Of Her 'Unnatural' Hair Color

“No one should tell you what you are based on your appearance."

black woman covering her face, restaurant Krakenimages.com / ariadna de raadt / Shutterstock

A teenage girl was sent home from her fast food job all because of her hair color.

Autumn Williams, 16, from Concord, North Carolina, revealed that she not only felt "incredibly embarrassed" at being sent home from her job at Chick-fil-A but was confused about the issue that her boss had brought up to her regarding her hair.

She was told to go home because her hair color was deemed 'unnatural.'

During a shift working the front counter at Chick-fil-A on July 13, Autumn recalled being asked by her manager to speak in private, according to NBC News. Confused, Autumn obliged but didn't realize that the issue pertained to her hair color.


According to Autumn and her mother, Nina Burch, the black teenage girl wears her “brownish-blond” or “dark blond” hair in box braids, which she had when she first attended an orientation session approximately two months ago when she was hired.

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The only thing Autumn had been told during that orientation session was that her hair needed to be pulled back from her face, which was a reasonable request. However, on that specific day, Autumn was told she needed to go home and was not allowed back until she took her hair out and returned to a "natural" color, despite the color of her braids already being the color of hair she was born with.


“She said, ‘Our supervisor drove by yesterday and noticed blond in your hair and since blond is an unnatural color to you, we have to ask you to take the blond out of your hair and then come back when there’s none,’” Autumn recalled her manager telling her. “She said, ‘We understand that’s a long process for you so take your time and you can email me when you’re ready to come back.'"

Shocked and embarrassed, Autumn immediately called her mother to come and pick her up. “It was very stressful — it made me feel like there was something wrong with me and my appearance.”

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Once the teenager's mother arrived, she noticed that other employees had 'unnatural' hair colors.

As Burch arrived at the Chick-fil-A location to pick her daughter up, the young girl's mother couldn't help but notice that there was at least one other worker whose hair was dyed. "I’m looking at this Caucasian boy with bleached blonde hair and black tips and I’m sure that’s not a natural hair color,” Burch told People. “So this is beginning to look a little racist to me.” 


Burch explained that she immediately asked her daughter's boss for the supervisor's number, but wasn't given any clarification on why her daughter was being sent home and was only told to "refer to the handbook."

As the company's handbook states, the dress code for employees is “hairstyles must be neat and professional in appearance" and "unnatural hair colors or eccentric styles (e.g. Mohawks, shaven designs, etc.) are not permitted," though Autumn hadn't violated either.

Burch even tried to explain to the supervisor that even if her daughter went home and took her braids out, her hair would still be the same color. After the back-and-forth, on July 14, Autumn decided to give the location her notice that she wouldn't be returning.

“No one should tell you what you are based on your appearance," Autumn pointed out. “I’m now not just an average 16-year-old, I’m an average 16-year-old who has experienced first-hand racism to my face. I’ve been lucky for the majority of my life not to experience that, so it’s a shocker when it happens to you.”


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As for the steps Autumn and her mother are now taking against this location of Chick-fil-A, Burch told NBC News that she has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “to see if there’s a route we should pursue legally.”

Unfortunately, many Black women are often discriminated against because of their hair.

There has been legislation enacted to protect Black people from experiencing hair discrimination, such as the CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and provides protections against race-based hair bias, prohibiting discrimination based on hair texture and protective styles including braids, twists, and locs. 

While 20 states have adopted the legislation, hair discrimination is not prohibited at a federal level in the United States. 


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According to 1,000 Black women ages 25 to 64, both part-time and full-time employees, who took part in the CROWN Research Study, it was found that 66% of them said they had changed their hair for a job interview to lessen the chances of being passed over due to hair discrimination. Twenty-five percent of Black women said they believed they were denied a job interview because of their hair. 

Once they landed the job, Black women with textured hair were twice as likely to face microaggressions in the workplace compared to Black women with straight hair. And 25% of Black women aged 25 to 34 also revealed they were sent home from work because of their hair.


The hair discrimination faced by Black women has deep implications beyond just experiencing it in the workplace. It sends a powerful message that their identity is something to be controlled, confined, and even changed to fit within outdated preconceived notions of what is deemed acceptable.

This message that their hair isn't right or doesn't fit in the social norm follows Black women throughout their lives, impacting their self-esteem and their sense of belonging. Instead of perpetuating these biases, Black women's beauty and features should be embraced, acknowledging that hair, like any other form of self-expression, should not be a basis for judgment or discrimination.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.