On her third day of training, Akua Agyemfra’s manager explained that the chain insists women wear their hair down. When the 20-year-old took her hair out of the bun, she told CBC News that her manager “could see it doesn’t go down.”
“She was really nice about it,” said Agyemfra, who added she was not informed of the policy prior to being hired. “But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that she sent me home.”
Kathryn Long, a marketing manager for Jack Astor’s, clarified to PEOPLE that their written standards allow an “option to wearing ‘hair down’ or up in a ‘stylish up-do.’ ”
“We work hard to be a responsible, fair and respectful employer, providing a safe and comfortable environment for every staff member,” she said.
But Agyemfra says her mother encouraged her to not return to the chain and according to her Facebook, her employment “was short lived due to the unfortunate circumstances.”
Now the waitress – who wore extensions during her interview and first two training shifts – is speaking out about her experience to encourage “equality in the workplace.”
“I know most black women at restaurants are forced to wear wigs or weaves or extensions, or are forced to straighten their hair everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I think extensions look great. I’ve been wearing them ever since I was a little girl. I love when I get my braids. It’s the protective style I choose and works for me,” she said. “But why am I scrutinized when I decide to to take them out? That’s not fair.
“I’m not going to compromise my roots and edges because my employer wants me to. My scalp has a right to breathe just as much as the woman standing beside me.”
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By sharing her story, she’s also hoping to change the policy for future employees at Jacks Astor’s.
“Hopefully moving forward women working there will not feel pressured and will be able to wear their hair how they please,” she says. “I just want the women there to be able to express themselves accordingly and make a difference!”
And Agyemfra’s voice was definitely heard. Long added that since Agyemfra came forward, the restaurant has established a “confidential channel through which any employee can share their views on our policies – without fear of consequences – with senior management.”