She Says Her Gray Hair Got Her Fired

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Gray Hair Was it the gray hair that got her fired? Not even her hairdresser knows for sure, but that's what 52-year-old Sandra Rawline is claiming. She was relieved of her job as an escrow officer and branch manager at Capital Title of Texas just a few days after her boss asked her to color her gray hair.

Rawline says that she's been naturally gray since she was in her early 20s, and is comfortable that way. She didn't believe it was ever a problem until her boss told her the company was moving to a new, more upscale location, and she was asked to change her image with a new hair color, "younger fancy suits" and more jewelry, according to the Houston Chronicle. Rawline believed she was fine the way she was, and refused to comply.

That was on Thursday. By Tuesday, she was told that her services were no longer needed. Soon she was replaced by a woman 10 years younger. This happened back in August 2009, but Rawline has recently filed an age discrimination and retaliation lawsuit in federal court in Houston.

Her employer, Capital Title of Texas, issued a statement saying that the termination was due to the fact that one of their large clients no longer wished to do business with her, and that it had nothing to do with her age or hair color. They had to have someone the client was comfortable working with in that position. They also stated that there are several employees, ages 64 and over, still working with that particular client.

Rawline says that she never heard any of those complaints before she was fired. Houston attorney Robert "Bigs" Dowdy has been retained to represent her.

Appearance issues in the workplace are tricky -- employers legally have a lot of leeway in regulating dress standards for employees, such as making them wear a uniform, prohibiting shorts and tank tops, requiring hair to be pulled back, etc. Where they don't have as much wiggle room is in age discrimination -- if they wanted Rawline to dye her hair and change her wardrobe so that she would look younger, they just might have a legal problem.

Rawline was supervising four employees at the time she was fired, and had received "outstanding employee" awards in 2004 and 2005, before being promoted from escrow officer to branch manager, which brought her salary to $48,000 a year. "I was really working hard for them," she told the Chronicle, which reported that since losing her job she has been unable to find a similar position and is currently working in a customer service position for about $30,000 annually.


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