Lawsuit: Black School Worker ‘Humiliated’ After Colleagues Sign Petition Calling Her Hair ‘Unprofessional’ and ‘Inappropriate’ for Work

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A North Carolina school district employee has filed a discrimination lawsuit claiming she was “humiliated” after several of her white colleagues signed a petition deeming her natural hair “unprofessional” and “inappropriate” for the workplace, The Charlotte Observer reports.

Kimberly Tigner, who’s Black, filed the briefing with the Western District of North Carolina on Wednesday detailing the “brutal and relentless” discrimination she suffered during her employment with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Tigner worked as a career development liaison for the district’s Career and Technical Education Department.

Natural Hair Discrimination
The employee’s lawsuit claims her supervisor argued it was acceptable for her to circulate a petition disparaging the employee’s natural hair (not represented above) because the supervisor “has Black friends.” (Photo: Getty Images)

“The harassment Ms. Tigner faced …  included incidents ranging from mildly insulting to dehumanizing,” according to the complaint.

Tigner alleges she was subject to “racially motivated criticism and bullying” by colleagues and a supervisor who allegedly circulated the petition about her hair. In her suit, she claims the supervisor insisted she was in the right to distribute the petition because she has “Black friends.”

Last month, New York became the second state to ban race discrimination based on natural, cultural hairstyles and hair textures. California was the first after Gov. Gavin Newsome signed a bill July 3 outlawing discrimination against natural and “protective” hairstyles, including weaves and braided extensions.

“(The school district) intentionally deprived Ms. Tigner, an African American woman, of the same Constitutional rights enjoyed by white citizens as to the creation, performance, enjoyment, and all benefits and privileges of her contractual relationship with (CMS),” the briefing states.

Tigner’s complaint says her 17-year-old son was also affected. She said the supervisor complained of feeling threatened in the presence of Tigner’s son “because he was a black male.” The supervisor allegedly used the district’s internal directory to investigate whether the teen had a criminal past before taking her concerns to a department head, who banned Tigner’s son from CMS property.

The plaintiff said she spent two weeks trying to prove her son wasn’t a felon.

Tigner reported the abuse, only to be reprimanded and retaliated against, the lawsuit claims. She applied for other jobs in an effort to get away from the bullying and harassment, but was passed over for all five positions to which she applied.

CMS has pushed back against the allegations, however, arguing that “no objectively reasonable person would view the isolated incidents in the Corrected Amended Complaint to be either severe or pervasive enough to form the basis of a hostile work environment claim.”

The district recently filed a dismissal brief with the court, arguing that Tigner’s complaint failed to point to any “official policy, practice or custom of institutional racial discrimination.”

“Courts have rejected claims of racial harassment based on conduct far more egregious than what Plaintiff has alleged in this case,” it added.

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