nyc’s very first hair discrimination case is won

November 15, 2019

Remember earlier this year when New York City FINALLY banned hair discrimination? Well, they just won their first case!
This case was actually the catalyst for the ban in the first place. Celebrity hairstylist Sally Hershberger (Michelle Obama, Meg Ryan) and business partner Sharon Dorram are being sued in a $70,000 civil lawsuit. The elite salon on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where haircuts average between $800-$1000 is finally getting their due after receiving and dismissing several complaints over time.

It was the employees of Sally Hershberger who filed complaints against the business. When a new, racist dress code was implemented in 2015, staff had to speak up. The rules read that no employee could wear box braids or afros as, “Afros and box-braided hairstyles did not reflect the upscale image of the neighborhood,”. But of course, they didn’t mean anything racial. The two business partners denied these claims to the Times when asked about it. 

The former general manager of the salon, David Speer, filed the first complaint to the Times and shared revealing text messages: 

“Today looked awful. Rail yne (sic) had her dreads down; Regine just got hers to match as long and of course Tarren (sic) All 3 at desk and we look like we should be on E. 134th Street. Sorry, nor(sic) racist just telling you we are on Mad. and 71st.”

Mr. Speer, who said he had made clear he found these statements offensive, replied by text, “And Madison can never be black. Is that right?”

Ms. Dorram responded to him saying that he was “missing the point.”

Another text message sent on the same day from Ms. Dorram to Mr. Speer said:

“Can’t be 3 girls at the desk. 2 like this and 1 w/ big Afro. What is our image Please instruct them not to wear hair down and no nose rings”

While these rules were forced upon the Black employees, a Puerto Rican receptionist was told that the rules don’t apply to her. Dorram told her, “We didn’t create this new rule because of you. You look beautiful with your hair down. It’s the other girls. Their hair looks disgusting.” She quit in solidarity of the anti Black environment. 

Now the two women are being held accountable. They are required to complete community service in service to an organization that promotes Black beauty and combats hair discrimination. In addition, the Hershberger Salon and Dorram Color have to create an internship that seeks out candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. All employees and respondents must be trained and policy revisions must be implemented for all. Finally, Hershberger and Dorram along with their employees must be trained in styling, care and maintenance of natural hair and the care, maintenance and styling of Black hair. 

We hope the CROWN Act that made this possible is implemented everywhere moving forward to add consequence to unacceptable behavior.