Zara is under fire for alleged bias again. This time, an employee at a Zara store in Toronto says management discriminated against her because of her natural hair.
Cree Ballah, who described herself as biracial, told Canada’s CBC News she was approached by two managers when she arrived at work on March 23. They asked to take her hair out of the box braids she had pulled back into an updo, she said.
Ballah told Toronto’s City News that the two managers said they were “not trying to offend” her, but told her they were “going for a clean professional look.”
Ballah said they then tried to take matters into their own hands by attempting to “fix” the hairstyle in the middle of a crowded mall. “It was very humiliating… it was unprofessional,” she told CBC. “My hair type is also 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.”
Ballah did not respond to a request for comment before publication. City News reports she filed a complaint with Zara’s human resources department. A meeting two weeks later did little to resolve the issue to her satisfaction.
A Zara spokesman told The Huffington Post in part in a statement that the fashion retailer “has no formal policy regarding employees’ hairstyles; we expect all employees to ensure that they present a professional appearance that enables them to serve our valued customers.
“We have engaged directly with the employee on this matter and respect the privacy of those discussions. Zara would never, under any circumstances, ask an employee to remove his or her braids. We are proud of our diverse workforce, and we do not tolerate any form of discrimination.”
Unfortunately, Ballah is hardly the first person to be penalized for their natural hair. Earlier this month, Akua Agyemfra, a server at Jack Astor’s restaurant in Toronto, was sent home for wearing her hair in a bun. In 2012, Louisiana meteorologist Rhonda Lee claimed she was fired from her job for defending her natural hair on-air after it was criticized online.
Zara has a less than perfect history when it comes to relationships with both its customers and employees. Back in 2015, the brand was accused of showing racial bias toward customers and employees, and it has, on more than one occasion, been criticized for carrying offensive products.