A black Banana Republic employee who was suspended over her box braids hairstyle is suing the retail brand for $1m.
Destiny Tompkins was humiliated in October when her white manager, named as Michael Gennis, questioned why she was wearing the traditional Afro-Caribbean hairstyle. According to Tompkins, Michael said the braids were not appropriate for the so-called Banana Republic image and described them as too “urban” and “unkempt”. Michael allegedly demanded they be removed ahead of Tompkins’ next shift.
The incident took place at Banana Republic’s Westchester store and while the regional manager, Jill Matejunas, was visiting.
Tompkins, 19, detailed her uncomfortable experience in a Facebook post which went viral. According to the New York Daily News, Tompkins’ manager Gennis was fired but Matejunas faced no repercussions. Gennis, Matejunas, Banana Republic and its parent company Gap Inc are all named in the lawsuit, which was filed at the state Supreme Court in Manhattan on 13 November.
Banana Republic refused to comment on “pending litigation” but reportedly stated their company has a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination and harrassment.
Tompkins received an abundance of support on her Facebook post, with one follower commenting: “This is incredibly upsetting, and I am very sorry you had to even deal with this. I am so tired of hearing these stories occurring across the world, there is nothing wrong with protective hairstyles. I’m proud of you for always standing up for yourself and others.”
Another supportive message read: “Smfh that s**t is unreal. I worked in the Westchester too so I already know they been on some bulls**t. I can’t wait till corporate here’s this [sic].”
Social attitudes towards black womens choice of hairstyle has dominated headlines recently. Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o blasted Grazia UK after they digitally removed her afro hair while Solange Knowles warned: “Don’t touch my hair” when the Evening Standard cropped out part of her hairstyle.