In 2016, Mariam Mohammed lived in Ghana and completed an overseas master’s degree before returning to Florida and applying for jobs with a Florida-based security services company. During her interview, Mohammed asked her interviewer to check that her hair was “very neatly done,” to which the interviewer replied, “Oh yeah, it’s good.” She asked about the length of her hair, to which the interviewer then said, “Well, it’s kind of long, isn’t it?” In that instance, Mohammed says, she was racially profiled.
“I took his response as he was intentionally suggesting to me that I was a distraction,” said Mohammed in a previous statement. “I even repeated this back to him multiple times, insisting I was simply looking for a job.”
Mohammed says that another interview went differently. She says she followed up the “short and messy” remark with a polite apology. She was ultimately offered a position, but after six months of work, she quit because she says she was unhappy with her sexual harassment complaints being ignored. The company has since contacted her to ask for her email address and told her to stop complaining, but her lawsuit against the company contends that she felt discriminated against because of her hair style.
Her suit also references her post-hiring complaint to Human Resources, in which she referred to her hair as her “natural heritage” and said that she was subjected to “unwanted sexual comments, inappropriate touching, and extreme and unsolicited commentary about her appearance and weight.” HR then took down her comments, according to the complaint.
The company initially stated that their concern was how she was dressed. “The applicant came to work in a flamboyant outfit with very provocative elements, clothing inappropriate for the workplace, and oversized jewelry,” said the company in a statement.
“This suit appears to be rooted in cultural prejudice that seeks to perpetuate stereotypes about the cultural preferences of African-Americans.” The company has now denied all of the discrimination allegations.
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