A former reporter at WJTV in Mississippi claims she was fired after experiencing instances of racism in the work place and filing complaints.
Brittany Noble Jones, who started working for the station in 2015 and co-anchored their morning show, said she was told by her bosses that her natural hair was “unprofessional” and was asked to stop wearing it because “viewers needed to see a beauty queen.”
She said she was damaging her hair by straightening it every day for work, which is one of the reasons why she made the switch to natural hair in 2017. Noble Jones claims that just a month later, one of the station’s news directors asked her to change her hair back after he allegedly said he had received negative feedback on her natural hairstyle.
“[I felt] that I was ugly, that the way that God created me wasn’t good enough. It felt horrible,” Noble Jones told InsideEdition.com. “Our kids need representation of people that look like us on TV. There are a lot of people in America who have hair like mine and we have to be open to see that reflected in our newsrooms.”
Noble Jones, 32, is now accusing WJTV and its parent company, Nexstar, of discrimination and said she filed two complaints with Human Resources during her time at the station.
She said whenever she would pitch story ideas about race in Mississippi, she was told those stories were “not for all people” and the station didn’t want to cover things that could be “polarizing.”
“We have to start standing up and telling some of the stories in the black community,” Noble Jones said.
She said she was harassed by HR after sending the complaints. Eventually, she took her worries to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April 2018. The following month, she was fired while taking leave to take care of her dying grandfather.
“I was terminated while using my own sick time to care for my dying grandfather,” Noble Jones said in a Medium post. “I believe this is because I filed an EEOC complaint the month before.”
The mother, who holds a master’s degree in television form Alcorn State University, said she is still without a job in journalism after having searched for eight months.
“For the first time in my life, I collected unemployment but the money has run out,” Noble Jones wrote. “Despite my love for journalism, I’ve been working outside of my field to make ends meet.”
WTJV released a statement to "Today" about the Noble Jones' termination.
"WJTV-TV and Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. maintain a strict zero-tolerance policy which prohibits harassment, discrimination or retaliation of any type. Allegations that Ms. Jones’ employment was terminated for her choice of hairstyles have no basis in fact and are vigorously denied. 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 read.
This isn’t the first time a black woman has claimed she was banned from wearing her natural hair in the workplace.
In 2010, Chastity Jones was offered a job at Catastrophe Management Systems (CMS) in Mobile, Alabama, but she said she was told she would have to change her dreadlocks to work there. She refused and said the company then rescinded the offer for the job, stating that dreadlocks violated the company’s “grooming policy.”
In 2013, the EEOC filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against CMS, citing that it's a racial stereotype to deem natural black hair unprofessional. Alabama’s federal circuit court dismissed the claim, saying discrimination has to be based on traits a person cannot change, like skin color.
The decision was appealed by the EEOC but it was upheld in 2016.
Reports of kids being restricted from wearing dreadlocks and certain natural hair styles in schools have also been prominent for years.
In August, a Florida Christian school faced backlash for not allowing a 6-year-old to wear his dreadlocks. He was allegedly not allowed entry on his first day of school because of the hairstyle, which was prohibited by the school.
More recently, the African-American community was outraged when a referee gave a black teenager an ultimatum during a wrestling match in New Jersey: cut his hair or forfeit. He chose to let officials cut his hair on the spot and the moment was recorded.
"How many different ways will people try to exclude Black people from public life without having to declare their bigotry?” The New Jersey Chapter of the ACLU tweeted at the time the video went viral. “We’re so sorry this happened to you, Andrew. This was discrimination, and it's not okay.”