Brittany Noble-Jones was let go from her job as an anchorwoman for a Mississippi TV station after she objected to her boss referring to her natural hairstyle as “too unprofessional” for broadcast.
Noble-Jones said her boss compared her natural hairstyle to wearing a baseball cap.
The anchorwoman began working for WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi, in 2015. That same year she won the NABJ’s “Emerging Journalist of the Year” award.
According to Buzzfeed News, Noble-Jones decided to change her hairstyle for “practical and personal reasons” after giving birth to her son in October 2016.
She explained that it took a long time to straighten her hair everyday, and she was a new mom. But she also wanted to set an example for her unborn child.
“While I was pregnant I kept wondering, ‘How am I going to teach my child to love their own hair if I don’t even love my own hair?'” she said.
Noble-Jones told her boss she planned to stop wearing wigs and wear her natural hair on the air, and her boss said OK. But a month later, she said he changed his mind.
According to Noble-Jones, her boss said her natural hair was the equivalent of her “wearing a baseball hat to the grocery store.”
She said she internalized the criticism at first, thinking she “didn’t look like a beauty queen with my hair.”
But then she decided to fight back. She recorded some of her conversations with her boss, who eventually left the station.
However, Noble-Jones said the issues with her natural hair continued. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and shortly thereafter, she took sick leave to care for her dying grandfather.
While on leave, Noble-Jones was fired. The station cited her absence from work, not her hair, as the reason for her termination.
The station, which is owned by Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc., denied any bias toward the anchorwoman.
The station pointed out its “zero-tolerance policy which prohibits harassment, discrimination or retaliation of any type.”
A spokesperson said in a statement, “Ms. Jones’ employment was in fact terminated for excessive absenteeism and for her failure to return to work and fulfill her contractual responsibilities after exhausting all available leave time.”
The statement concluded: “We stand by our decision to terminate Ms. Jones’ employment and vehemently deny her latest publicly-stated version of reasons for her dismissal.”
Noble-Jones wrote a post about her ordeal on Medium.com. She said her hope was, “that by talking about my hair it shines a light on some of the problems we as journalists face in sharing stories about people of color.”