Woman in hair row suspended for alleged social media post
THE IT distribution company accused of discriminating against an employee because of her curly hair has vehemently denied the allegation.
Pinnacle chief executive Tim Humphreys-Davies said Ronelle Prins was suspended after contravening the company’s social media policy.
Prins has accused the company of discriminating against her and her physical appearance when she detailed in a blog entry how a supervisor suggested she spruce up her professional appearance and get a Brazilian blow-out.
Spokesperson for Pinnacle Evette Wessels said they were “greatly disappointed” that Prins chose to speak to the media before addressing the matter, in line with company policy and procedure, by lodging a grievance.
“The matter has an extended history, which she has chosen not to share with you. We feel the need to set the record straight as the situation has evidently moved in a very unfair and damaging direction,” Wessels said.
Prins, 30, is currently suspended from her position as a dispatch clerk after sharing her story with a blog detailing her ordeal after a supervisor suggested she have a Brazilian blow-out done as opposed to wearing her hair naturally.
Prins, employed at the company for almost three years, says she has frequently worn her hair with its natural curls.
She explained her natural hair journey started after she was assaulted on a train and had to undergo surgery, leaving her with a scar stretching between her ears.
“After the surgery, I decided to grow my hair naturally. It grew out curly and, because blow-drying my hair is always a pain, I decided to wear natural curls most of the time,” she said.
Prins said she was called aside by her supervisor and told to pay more attention to how she looked.
“The matter came from a month ago when I was approached by my supervisor, saying they had a problem with my appearance. They were not happy with how I looked and the way I dressed,” she said.
“They told me my (company-issued) jacket is always dirty but I work in a warehouse where we dispatch items and my jacket is sometimes covered in dust. Although this was part of details surrounding my suspension, a big part of it is due to my hair,” Prins said.
She added that she was taken aback by the request to do something to her appearance.
“I was also asked to change my hair colour. But my hair was this way for a year already, and when I initially changed the colour, there was no problem with it. I was very emotional after the meeting and I cried as I couldn’t understand what I’m not doing right,” she said.
Humphreys-Davies said Prins was not singled out due to her appearance, and all employees were addressed about their professional appearance.
“On the same day, a colleague of Prins was also asked to tidy his appearance by neatening his facial hair, as he also is a customer-facing employee.”
Last week, Prins received a suspension letter from her employer and was told to report to their Cape Town offices “pending the outcome of an investigation regarding gross misconduct, unacceptable behaviour and disrespect to an employer”.
Prins said she did not want to follow the route of lodging a grievance at the workplace as she felt it would be “swept under the mat”.
Wessels said: “We would like to confirm at no time was the employee asked to cut or remove her curly hair – only to wash her hair and to present herself in a more professional manner. This has subsequently been misconstrued and misled everyone to think it was a racially motivated incident.”
SUSPENDED: Ronelle Prins