A Black female cop from New Jersey is suing the town where she works and her boss for hair discrimination, NBC News reports.
Chian Weekes-Rivera, a veteran police officer of the Maplewood Township Police Department, claims she was discriminated against after she was disciplined for wearing her hair in a traditional African hairstyle. In a lawsuit filed in early November, Weekes-Rivera, 38, is accusing the department and her supervisor, listed as Peter Kuenzel, a Maplewood police captain, of subjecting her “to disciplinary action for having Black hair,” which is a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, know as LAD.
According to the State of New Jersey Civil Service Commission, the law “prohibits unlawful employment discrimination based on an individual’s race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital/civil union status, religion, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation,” and more.
Kuenzel called the Bantu knots “rollers” and informed Weekes-Rivera that was the reason she was in violation of the dress code policy. Weekes-Rivera reminisced on being heavily emotional after receiving the violation.
“To get that paper, it was cringeworthy,” she said. “I had to ask him questions to stop myself from crying.”
The officer is accusing the police department of being “aided and abetted” by Kuenzel, as well as subjecting her to “discipline as a result of her race and ethnicity.” While she continues to work at the department, she isn’t sure about her job security or if the violation will prohibit her from advancing.
Identifying as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Weekes-Rivera says she feels added pressure on top of being a Black woman in a predominantly-male environment. She says she was “mortified” that she got in trouble over her hair.
“It’s super embarrassing,” she said. “It makes me feel like less than.”
Her attorney, John Coyle, agrees.
He thinks Maplewood is setting a precedent with the act of discipline.
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Source: Black Enterprise