Fired for grey hair

despite winning outstanding employee awards.

Sandra Rawline’s hair turned grey when she was in her early 20s. She stuck with it, proudly displaying her shoulder-length locks with their natural silver streaks. “This is who I am,” she said.

But it seems that who she was, when it comes to grey hair in the workplace, was not satisfactory to her Texan employer. In August 2009 her boss approached her and told her to confect a more “upscale image” to go with her real estate firm’s move to a new headquarters in Galleria, Texas.

Rawline, 52, said she was told to come to work wearing “younger, fancy suits” and lots of jewellery. And she had to dye that hair – her boss even offered to do the colouring.

When she refused, the Houston Chronicle reports, she was fired within a week and replaced by a woman 10 years her junior. She has sued for discrimination in the Houston courts.

Rawline told the paper her hair colour had never been an issue until that point since she joined the firm, Capital Title, in 2003. “I was really working hard for them,” she said, pointing out that she won the outstanding employee award in 2004 and 2005.


She’s suing.

3 thoughts on “Fired for grey hair

  1. This is a very old story.

    “Nobody dast blame this man. You don’t understand: Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life.

    “He don’t put a bolt to a nut; he don’t tell you the law or give you medicine. He’s a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine.

    “And when they start not smiling back – that’s an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat and you’re finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.”

    Death of a Salesman

  2. There in fact is no Galleria, Texas. There are two excessively upscale malls called ‘the Galleria.’ One in Houston and one in Dallas.

    Upscale in Houston has a few different flavors. It can be relatively old money from the Northeast, or money that is just a few generation old from oil money. We are talking multi-million dollar homes, quiet or blatant couture clothes, etc. Or European, african, etc, wealth. Certainly, it might be hard to have only clients from this group, and the Galleria does have ordinary stores, in addition to many of the NY 5th ave single name stores (chanel, tiffany, cartier, barney’s). Maybe it is bad to ask your employees to present an image to respond to your favored clients idea of familiar. Perhaps it is also bad to try to sell homes for $5 million. I suspect image and success at getting people to part with that amount of money are connected.

    I can’t quite believe I am saying this.

    In my 7 am pilates classes are two octogenarians from the moneyed class, and I do think they are rather wonder. They went to the east coast to Smith and wellesley at a time when it could seem odd to educate women. Each told me that I must wear stockings when I go to parties, regardless of the summer heat. It’s that kind of town.

  3. As PR said, unfortunately, I think this is a very familair story to anyone who’s who worked in sales. I sold designer shoes for a couple of years as an undergrad at a major retailer, and I can’t tell you how many employees were advised to “dress cuter,” “put some mascara on,” etc. There used to be a whole section on your annual review paper work to address issues with your appearance, but I think that was recently removed.

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