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Labor & Employment

Woman Who Attributed Firing to Gray Hair Doesn’t Persuade a Federal Judge

Posted Jun 20, 2012 9:06 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A former branch manager who claimed she was fired from a Texas title company because she refused to dye her gray hair wasn't able to persuade a Houston federal judge that her allegation is true.

The suit by Sandra Rawline was dismissed on a motion for summary judgment, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. The June 6 decision by U.S. District Judge Gray Miller cited “overwhelming evidence that Rawline was discharged for legitimate reasons.”

Rawline had claimed she was fired because she refused to dye her hair and wear "younger fancy suits" and lots of jewelry. But Miller cited evidence that clients had complained about “rudeness, tardiness, temper, and use of ‘choice words’ during their conversations.” Rawline was fired in August 2009 after she arrived late for work, smelling like alcohol and wearing inappropriate clothing, he wrote. She also refused to do a scheduled closing.

A day before her late arrival, a supervisor had spoken with Rawline about her lack of professionalism, the opinion says. The supervisor had suggested that Rawline wear clothes that were more appropriate for the workplace and had suggested trimming and dying her hair as a way to improve her overall appearance.

“The court finds absolutely no evidence that Rawline’s age was a motivating factor for her discharge,” Miller wrote. “Any reference to Rawline’s hair color occurs only in the context of her overall disheveled appearance. ... Rawline had gray hair when she was hired, throughout her employment, and admits that dying her hair was never a condition of her continued employment.”

The court case continues, however. Miller refused to dismiss the title company’s defamation counterclaim based on statements Rawline made to two Houston publications.

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