Wo­man in hair row sus­pended for al­leged so­cial me­dia post

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - CHEVON BOOY­SEN

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

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