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Labor & Employment

Woman, 52, Says She Was Fired Over Her Gray Hair; CEO Points Out He Has Gray Hair, Too

Posted Jul 7, 2011 2:57 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A former branch manager and escrow officer says in a federal lawsuit that she was fired from her job at a Texas title company because of her refusal to dye her gray hair and wear "younger fancy suits" and lots of jewelry.

But CEO Bill Shaddock scoffs at Sandra Rawline's claim that she suffered employment discrimination in 2009 because of her age (she is now 52) and points out that he has gray hair, too, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"I'd hire a 150-year-old individual if they were worthy," he tells the newspaper.

Attorneys not involved in the case note that employers can make demands about their workers' appearance, so long as they don't take an adverse employment action based on an employee's age, sex or another legally protected characteristic.

Thus, points out attorney Katherine Butler of Butler & Harris, an appeals court in 2006 found that a casino was within its rights to fire a female bartender who refused to wear makeup. As a lawyer who represents employees and a woman, however, she sympathizes with the stereotyping that can place unequal burdens on some groups of workers.

She now dyes her own gray hair, she notes, after letting it go natural for a few years. During that time, she grew weary of being asked if she wanted a senior discount.

Rawline is represented in the Houston case by Robert "Bigs" Dowdy.

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