• Mon, Jul 11 2011

Now You May Be Fired For That Grey Hair

When I found my first grey hair the week after I turned 30, I literally yelped. I was in the dressing room at J.Crew and screamed for my friend who was in the room next to me.

Under the fluorescent lights of the store on Prince Street, it was there in plain sight, illuminated proof that I was indeed getting older. The first thing I did when I got home was pluck the sucker out. Since then it has returned with a few friends – they are all removed and flushed away, but not before I chastise them for existing in the first place.

For me, grey hair was the telltale sign that yes, I was getting older; and yes, it might be time to dye my curly locks and hide it. However, I have a few friends who have grey hair and don’t live behind the mask of artificial color. Granted, it’s not a total mane of grey for most of them, but it’s enough that I catch myself staring and wondering: Why oh why won’t you cover that up? Unfortunately we live in a society that seems to think that men become distinguished and sexy with age, while women become, well, old. It seems a real estate branch in Houston, TX may have agreed with this mentality.

A 52-year-old former manager of the branch is saying she was fired because she wouldn’t dye her grey hair, nor would she wear “younger fancy suits,” as requested by her boss. It seems when the branch moved its office to an upscale area of the city, the boss thought it was time for this manager to step up her appearance. She refused to comply and was “replaced with a woman who is 10 years younger.”

Although Ms. Grey Hair has filed an age discrimination suit, her former employee, of course, is saying her age was not a factor in her dismissal. Instead, it was a customer who no longer wanted to work with the woman, so her job was no longer necessary. However, the customer’s reason for “refusing” to work with Ms. Grey Hair has not been disclosed.

The CEO of the real estate firm was sure to point out that this customer in question still works with three other employees who are all 64 years old. He also went on to say “I’d hire a 150-year-old individual if they were worthy.” Which is really easy to say, because people don’t live to be 15o so it would never been an option. In fact the oldest living person only got up to 122, and she passed away in 1997. He could have at least used a realistic age in his argument, don’t you think?

Either way, Ms. Grey Hair is unemployed and rockin’ her natural color proudly, I’m assuming, since she did refuse to dye it in the first place. Honestly, I don’t think this is just age discrimination but aesthetic discrimination – some women get a full head of grey at 25 or even younger. And if they want to wear it that way, more power to them. Personally, I admire anyone who embraces the aging process as a beautiful fact of life. I, for one, will be investing in Botox any day now.

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  • Carolyn

    Oh come on. It sounds like this lady who got fired for being gray and wearing suits that weren’t fancy might have been a slop. The difference between gray hair that’s styled nicely and gray hair that’s too long and fuzzy is huge. The same way that an illfitting faded suit is a world different than a newer suit that fits well and fits the times. Looks MATTER. How well you take care of your appearance is a reflection of how you take care of everything else in life, including how you perform at your job. If my boss told me I needed to step up my look, I would consider stepping up my look! (assuming he/she had never acted in a way that was unreasonable in the past, I would seriously consider their point of view on the subject!)

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