Hair-raising tribunal success

A black hospitality worker has received over £16,000 following a racial harassment employment tribunal after her manager demanded she remove her wig before grabbing and pulling it off.

The waitress was working at a restaurant and the owner began to tease her about her wig, which she used to protect her braided head from the cold. The tribunal heard that colleagues at the restaurant would often “gossip” about her real hair at work, and that there was an “intense curiosity” about what was underneath her wig. This made the employee feel “flustered and deeply uncomfortable,” the tribunal heard.

The restaurant owner asked the employee to remove her wig when they were alone, and as the employee took a step back, the owner reached over to grab the wig and pull it off her head. The altercation resulted in the employee resigning days later.

It goes without saying that touching anyone at work against their consent is never acceptable.  Incidents involving black and afro hair have been increasingly politicised in recent years and have been the subject of what is known as hair discrimination. UK workplaces have traditionally followed European beauty standards, which often disregard the natural hair textures and style of Black individuals. This can lead to discriminatory policies in workplaces where natural hairstyles like afros, braids and dreadlocks are deemed ‘unprofessional’ or unacceptable. This lack of understanding of the diverse ways that different cultures and ethnicities express themselves through their hair can result in marginalisation and unfair treatment of staff.

This employee was successful in her claim of constructive unfair dismissal and racial discrimination, to the tune of £16,500. Should you have any concerns about racism in your workplace, contact us at for support.

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