An employee at a Zara store in Toronto said she plans to quit her job and file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission after managers discriminated against her in connection with her hair. Cree Ballah, 20, said she arrived for her scheduled shift at Zara’s Scarborough Town Centre location on March 23 with her hair in box braids gathered in the back. One manager reportedly asked her to take the braids out of the bunch and returned later with a second manager, Ballah told CBC News.
“They took me outside of the store and they said, 'We’re not trying to offend you, but we’re going for a clean professional look with Zara and the hairstyle you have now is not the look for Zara,’” Ballah said. Then, she said, out in the busy mall where other Zara employees could see them, the managers proceeded to try to “fix” her hair. “It was very humiliating. It was unprofessional,” she said.
Ballah said she left the mall hurt and upset, and filed an official complaint with the company’s human resources department, claiming discrimination. “My hair type is linked to my race, so to me, I felt like it was direct discrimination against my ethnicity in the sense of what comes along with it,” said Ballah, who describes herself as bi-racial. “My hair type is also out of my control and I try to control it to the best of my ability, which wasn’t up to standard for Zara.”
Ballah has since met with company officials, but claims she is not satisfied with how the issue was handled.
In a written statement, Zara said it “engaged directly the employee on this matter and respect the privacy of those discussions.” The statement said the company is diverse and multicultural and does not tolerate any form of discrimination. It also said Zara has no formal policy regarding employees’ hairstyles, just that they look professional.