A Banana Republic employee from New York is claiming she was “humiliated and degraded” by a manager who said her hair was too inappropriate for the workplace.
Destiny Tompkins, 19, took to Facebook last week to recount the incident, which took place after a district manager came to visit her Banana Republic location in White Plains, N.Y.
“So today I went into work at Banana Republic at the Westchester Mall and after the district manager (a white woman) popped in for a visit, I was told to go to the office to speak with my manager,” wrote Tompkins in a Facebook post on Wednesday evening.
She then explained that she expected her store manager, a white man named Michael, to tell her something was wrong with her outfit. But instead, he began questioning her about her box-braid hairstyle, she says.
“He told me that my braids were not Banana Republic appropriate and that they were too ‘urban’ and ‘unkempt’ for their image,” wrote Tompkins, adding that Michael told her he couldn’t allow her to work until she changed her hairstyle.
Tompkins tried to explain how the braids keep her hair from drying out, but she alleges that Michael simply recommended she start using shea butter, and sent her back out to the floor.
“I have never been so humiliated and degraded in my life by a white person,” Tompkins wrote. “In that moment, I felt so uncomfortable and overwhelmed that I didn’t even finish my work shift and ended up leaving.”
“Box braids are not a matter of unprofessionalism, they are protective styles black women have used for their hair and to be discriminated against because of it is truly disgusting and unacceptable,” she added. “Make this public bc [the people at Banana Republic] need to be exposed for their blatant racism and discrimination. There’s no reason why a white person should feel allowed to tell me that I can’t wear my hair the way that I want bc it’s too black for their store image.”
Tompkins’ post has since been shared more than 51,000 times. She’s also been praised by supporters, one of whom suggested Tompkins take action against the company.
Tompkins’ mother, Jess Fig, later thanked the supporters in her own Facebook post.
On Friday, New York's WABC obtained a statement from Banana Republic, who wrote that they plan to investigate.
"We are committed to upholding an inclusive environment where our customers and our employees feel respected," the company wrote.
Destiny also appeared on WABC to discuss the matter further, and stated that it was the district manager who told Michael to talk to her about the braids. The station also said that Tompkins and her mother are pursuing legal action.
A representative for Banana Republic was not immediately available for further comment.