Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local

San Diego man sues employer under CROWN Act; claims he was discriminated over dreadlocks

A San Diego case may be the first test of California’s “Crown Act,” which seeks to prevent mistreatment and discrimination based upon natural Black hairstyles.

A San Diego's man case may be the first test of a California law that seeks to prevent mistreatment and discrimination based upon natural Black hairstyles.

San Diego man sues employer under CROWN Act; claims he was discriminated over dreadlocks
Listen to this story by Jacob Aere.

Jeffrey Thorton and his attorney Adam Kent were joined by other San Diego leaders in La Mesa Tuesday morning as they announced a legal claim being filed against Encore Global, an events management company.

Thorton said he was discriminated against in an interview for an audio-visual job at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront when Encore asked him to cut his dreadlocks.

IMG_8116.jpg
Jacob Aere
Jeffrey Thornton speaks at a press conference in La Mesa regarding his legal claim filed against Encore Global, Nov. 30, 2021.

“I expected that I was to remove my ear gauges, that’s not a problem. I’d be willing to trim my facial hair. But I wasn’t prepared to be told that I would need to cut my hair in order to comply with Encore’s standards,” Thornton said. “After all, I’ve been working with the company since 2016 and I started my locks journey in 2019.”

Thorton said he couldn’t accept the job under those conditions.

RELATED: State Sen. Holly Mitchell Talks About New Law To End Hair Discrimination

Before moving to San Diego this year, Thornton worked for Encore in Florida and said he had never been questioned about his hair.

“If it wasn’t a problem in Florida, it shouldn't be a problem in California, right? I expected that I would be within ‘neat and professional,’” he said, referring to the company’s dress code.

Thorton was furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic but got an email in October inviting him to apply for the job in San Diego.

The claim could lead to the first test of California’s CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, which was authored in 2019 by then-California state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles).

It seeks to prohibit employers and public schools from banning natural Black hairstyles, including braids, cornrows and dreadlocks.

The issue with the bill is that there is currently no means of enforcing or penalizing employers who violate the CROWN Act, employment law attorney Adam Kent said.

“We have asked the court not only to make Mr. Thorton whole for the damages he has suffered but to make sure that Encore Global is never again able to enforce grooming policies that disparately impacts Black Americans,” he said.

The suit is being filed in San Diego County Superior Court.

“We have asked the court to punish and make an example of Encore Global so that it and other corporations are on notice that violations of the CROWN Act are not only wrong, but they are illegal and cause repercussions to the companies that try to enforce them," he said.