Teen Claims Six Flags Over Texas Denied Him Job Because his Dreadlocks Are an 'Extreme Hairstyle'

A teen from Texas claimed he was turned down from a summer job at Six Flags Over Texas because his dreadlocks were considered an "extreme hairstyle."

Kerion Washington, 17, told KXAS-TV that his hairstyle was the reason why he could not get a job at the theme park in Arlington, Texas. Washington told the news station he had been growing out his hair for the last three years and it now sits shoulder-length on his head.

"I just don't even believe it," Washington told the news station. "That I would have to do that just to work there. They told me that I couldn't have dreads because it's more of an extreme hairstyle."

Austin Kaplan of Kaplan Law Firm in Austin, Texas, told Newsweek that the theme park's grooming policy was "questionable," but that such cases were not uncommon in the U.S.

"If you have a grooming policy, you should have a reason for it. It really depends on the facts,' said Kaplan, who is not representing Washington. "I think this is an open issue across the country, and it comes up a lot."

Kaplan said he would ask the theme park how the grooming policy was applied, and what kind of goal the company was trying to accomplish with it.

"Who decides what is an 'extreme hairstyle'? If the policy suggests discrimination, then the employers could be in a lot of trouble," Kaplan told Newsweek.

Newsweek reached out to Six Flags Over Texas for comment but did not hear back in time for publication. In a statement to KXAS-TV, the theme park said its grooming policy did not include "extreme hairstyles such as drastic variations in hair color, locks or partially shaven heads."

"Six Flags is one of the largest seasonal employers in the country, hiring more than 30,000 team members across 26 parks annually. We maintain a company-wide grooming code that includes standard uniforms for front-line team members and no extreme hairstyles such as drastic variations in hair color, locks or partially shaven heads," the statement read. "We do permit braids and we also recognize that some team members may request accommodations to our grooming code due to religious, cultural or medical reasons. We work with those team members on a case-by-case basis to address his or her individual needs."

Washington's mother, Karis Washington, said she called the human resources department at the popular theme park to get a better explanation as to why her son was turned away from the summer job, KXAS-TV reported.

"He don't have no tattoos or piercings...and that was one of the things she compared the dreadlocks to: tattoos and piercings," Karis said.

Karis posted a photo of her son in the parking lot of the theme park on Saturday on Facebook, stating that she spoke to someone from the human resources department and that she did not see anything in the grooming policy anything about dreadlocks. Her Facebook post garnered more than 16,000 shares and 19,000 reactions.

"I told her I read the grooming policy and it says your hair cannot hang more than [two] inches below your collar and [two] inches above your head including dreads, braids, etc. Nowhere did I read dreads are not allowed," Karis wrote on Facebook. "Then she said she can see how I got confused but dreads are not allowed."

In December 2018, a video went viral of a white referee cutting the hair of a black high school wrestler before a wrestling match. The wrestler, identified as Andrew Johnson, was allegedly told by referee Alan Maloney that if he wanted to compete during a match for Buena Regional High School in New Jersey, he would have to cut his hair. The 40-second video shows the high school wrestler's hair being cut by a white woman. Johnson won the match in overtime, but despite his win, he appeared upset as his teammates tried to cheer him up.

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A view of The Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas on July 22, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. A teen claims he was denied a job at the theme park because of his dreadlocks. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Teen Claims Six Flags Over Texas Denied Him Job Because his Dreadlocks Are an 'Extreme Hairstyle' | U.S.