black women

Cancer survivor fired for refusing to “tame her afro”

By  |  469 Comments

Jay-Z was one of the images used to get the community to approve the building of The Barclay’s Center in his home city of Brooklyn, NY.  So, allegations of racism in the hiring and firing in the center doesn’t show well for the man who promised the community that there would be job opportunities for people of color.  But is this a matter of racism or just someone being told to dress appropriately for the position? 

Also, the use of the word “tame” is curious, since it is often used to refer to wild animals.  To use this term toward a person of color, one might conclude that it is ultimately disrespectful of the humanity of the person being affected. 

Read more from Andrew Bolsinger: 

A former employee of AEG has filed a lawsuit in Brooklyn federal court seeking $900,000 in damages after being fired for allegedly refusing orders to “tame” her afro.

Tiffany Bryan decided to go natural in 2008 when her hair began growing back following chemotherapy treatments for bone marrow cancer. She refused to change her signature style, according to published reports.

Bryan, 27, worked as a security guard at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center arena and claimed she was harassed about her hair until managers finally decided to let her go.

“It was ridiculous,” Bryan told the New York Post. “I couldn’t understand what they had a problem with. I would get compliments all the time from people at events at Barclays.”

Bryan said she was hired in September 2013. Her first hair-related reprimands didn’t come for several months when security supervisor Denise Brown told her last March that she “looked like she stuck her finger in a socket and was electrocuted,” Bryan asserts.

“At the time, I just took it as a joke,” Bryan recalled. “It was rude, but I just laughed it off. But it didn’t stop there.”

Soon another security manager, LaNiece Tyree, told her that she “needed to do something with her hair” and that she needed to “tame it,” according to the suit.

Bryan eventually agreed to wear a headband, but said her bosses demanded she somehow fashion her hair into a ponytail.

“I told them my hair won’t do that,” Bryan said. “It’s sad that it even had to come to that. I didn’t feel like it was appropriate.”

Bryan’s discrimination lawsuit is working its way through the legal system. She now works as a mail carrier, the New York Post reported.

Bryan’s lawsuit reflects a growing concern over blacks being unfairly targeted in the workplace for hair styles, which includes long dreadlocks and afros.

Andrew Scot Bolsinger won more than two dozen press awards during his journalism career. He is a freelance writer, author and operates, which is focused on prison reform. He can reached at Andrew.Bolsinger@gmail.comand can be followed @CriminalUniv on Twitter.


  1. manatarm in justice black man

    June 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Hell yeah she should fight this case….black people stay getting discriminated against even when we stay in line.

  2. J. D. Hill

    June 19, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    We cannot onto a job expecting the owner to comply with our tastes. We have to comply with theirs. There is nothing racial about a request to “tame” her hair since it does not look neat. As a Black business owner who has to maintain a public image, I’d fire her, too! I have had female employees who wore natural hair, but their hair was clean and neat.

    If you want to wear what you want to wear and look the way you want to look on a job, then hire yourself as one who is self-employed. Otherwise, project the image that your business requires. And I want to emphasize the word, BUSINESS!

    • lynda

      June 19, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      I’m a business consultant. Just because you like the way you look, doesn’t mean your employer has to. I you look unkept, that reflects on what the customer thinks about your bosses business. And yes, I am a black female business consultant.

  3. Shanese

    June 19, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    As a security guard she should look polished and professional. She looks sloppy. This isn’t a race issue. It’s the me me generation that does not understand how to comply with the work policies. I would have fired her too.

  4. Sultana Ali

    June 19, 2014 at 5:47 pm

    I’m so happy (and so is she) for beating that cancer, and allowing her hair to grow back. I see her hair as a celebration. I don’t have hair like “them”. If I didn’t appreciate how G-d made me, then I would have a problem. As long as G-d accepts me and the way He made me, I really don’t care how you feel. That’s like men that judge you by the shape of your legs, and not you brains; or women who only like men with muscles and not a brain. Stop missing the point, it is not superficial. Tell Albert Einstein to come his hair.

    • Yocheved

      June 19, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      Amen to ALL of that! G-d made you perfect exactly as you are. The war on Black women’s hair has got to STOP!

  5. Art

    June 19, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    I see a lot of business business business comments, as if these black business owners dont realize there is a racial bias in the hiring, firing, and maintaining of jobs in this country. Clean shaven, clean shaven, clean shaven, as soon as white men stopped shaven the 5 oclock shadow became acceptable. Black women better have those stockings on. And, to all you Steven A. Smith sympathizers, just because it is reality doesnt make it right, reality can be changed, just imagined if those before us accepted reality as it was. Of course she should fight.

  6. allen

    June 19, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    I applaud her, we all have the right to be proud and of our heritage , and to be able to express it. do you know that black hair spirals in rotation with the planet. be very proud.

  7. shirl

    June 19, 2014 at 6:23 pm


  8. shirl

    June 19, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    correction no one should tell anyone how to wear their

  9. Jessica

    June 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    She looks like Buckwheat. If she’s not auditioning for SNL, girlfriend needs to get her hair done, or start her own business. Employers have a right to set the image, grooming standards and the tenor of their business environments. They are the investors. If she doesn’t want to abide by the grooming code of her employer; leave and either find a place that will accept your “style” or start your own business and see how far you will get in the business world looking like you’ve just been electrocuted.

  10. Haieljah

    June 19, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Go, Fight, Win…thanks to the reporter and to ALL women and men who stand for justice. From breast feeding in public to wearing natural hair, take charge of who you are and stop oppression (of all types/forms). “Stand Your Ground”, don’t let them kill you or your Spirit and stuff you with newspaper… JUSTICE FOR ALL SUFFERING OPPRESSION.

  11. Peaches

    June 19, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Wow, this is very disturbing to hear. The majority of staff at the Barclays center is African Americans so to hear this from the coworkers makes me very upset. The Barclays center has standards but what’s wrong with her hair.

  12. SweetTweet

    June 19, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    Linda, the business consultant, the word is “unkempt”. Monique made the same error on the Oprah show.

  13. Lisamae

    June 19, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    I want to see what that hair looks like…till then no comment… cause some people are just plain nasty and untidy..has nothing to do with colour or race!

  14. j lewis

    June 19, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    The illness she had has nothing g at all to do with the story other than to Gardner sympathy. The use of the word “tame” only relates to animals when use in context. The writer is obviously trying to get the readers this kind g negatively. (Race baiting). There’s not many businesses that interact with the public directly who do not have a dress and appearance code, we don’t know and it was not explained wha the young ladies hair actually looked like.

    Before my retirement 3 years ago, I had 11 employees, all Black. I had to address the appearence and dress on more than one occasion, even sent one young lady home to change! A great number of our young people have know idea, they come to work as if they’re going out on Friday night to party and assume they look good!

    Surely you all recognize some of us know what is required to get and keep a job and a large number haven’t a clue. Now today the first thing out of our mouths if something does not go the way we think it should is “racism”!

    Yes, there is racism, there always will be! But everything negative that happens to us is not racism, sometimes it us thinking we have to be taken the way we come, attitude and all. Wrong! She will lose her case!

  15. Chinua dean

    June 19, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    I am so tired of these white washed negros,I am Rastafari, so I have locs, and not salon ones either, I am intelligent and knowledgeable. Everyone should watch 400 yrs without a comb.

  16. Traveller

    June 20, 2014 at 7:22 am


  17. Traveller

    June 20, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Why should she have to “tame” her hair???

    Someone in here said that her hair was dirty…do you know that for sure?!?

    There’s nothing wrong with wearing your hair natural as an afro as its a part of our exclusive apprearance but I guess some of us would prefer to look like a Brazillian, Asian rather than themselves???

    One or two of you in here spoke about being in a business and that you yourselves wouldn’t tolerate the way she has her hair, you need to get a F***ing grip and stop being self-hating negroes!

    Evidently her hair wasn’t as serious an issue at the start of her job but the issue persisted due to the grwoing ignorance of staff managers at the Barclays Centre.
    I hope she gets paid for all the BS they’ve caused her because if they do get away with it then in the future it will something even more ridiculous that they will cook up as an excuse to fire Black folk!!

  18. Sarah

    June 20, 2014 at 8:07 am

    My hair is very very fine and soft and silky. Guess what? I wish I had thick hair to go afro. People are bugging these days. We have bigger fish to fry rather than paying attention to hair. She is not working in a resturant . Shame on those responsible for firing her.

  19. Sarah

    June 20, 2014 at 8:41 am

    Lewis, you have no idea what you are talking about. I worked in Wall Street for more than 20 yrs. and I had to dress to impress. I spent plenty money on clothes, shoes and accessories. The only day I felt free was on a Friday because I was I was my own boss for that 1 day. I think what is important, is missing. Grown people should be able to use commonsense when it comes to dressing. My husband wore a suit and tie every single day in 90° weather and would be sweating like crazy. Why? His job required that dress code. The first thing he pulled out as soon as he walked through that door was the tie. Now, President Obama takes off the tie which I think is cool and I’m starting to see the tie coming off. Pretty soon, it’s going to be obsolete. I hope you get my point. I am now a free woman. No one tells me how to dress anymore.

  20. Erin

    June 20, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Just saw the picture. Her hair was clean. Relatively neat. But you color struck, Negropeans will not get it. I hope your hearts and minds change. Or, at the very least, kill yourselves. You’re sucking up all the air from real black people.

  21. Ann G.

    June 20, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I wear my hair natural, and I love it and have never had any problems with it and before retirement I worked as an AA for one of the worlds largest corporations BUT, her hair needs to be conditioned, moisturized and trimmed neatly and that would make a big difference, Fact: When you own your own company, you may wear your hair the way you please but when working for someone else’s company, if you want to work there, you must adhere to their dress code! This is just the way the cookie crumbles! She now works for the post office apparently they don’t care, which is fine!

  22. Deidre

    June 20, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I have read over 30 comments on this issue and only one of you commented on the merits of this case. Along with many of you, I love natural hairstyles. However, I also understand and support a business owner’s right to ask employees to project the image he/ she requires for hire. And there’s the problem in this case. If this young lady’s hairstyle was exactly the same on the day of her interview as it is in this picture, then no one has a right to challenge her on it now. She should have never been hired. However, if she “tamed” her hair to get the job, she should be expected to “tame” it to keep it. If she was wild and free on hiring day, then she will win this case and celebrate more than just her hair! But if she pulled her hair up, back, braided it, or curled it in an attempt to fit in on day one, then she can’t make a “let my hair be free declaration” afterwards and expect to be left alone. And as I close, I must say that I doubt very strongly that this is a race issue because the names of the two managers who approached her sound like they could be African-American as well. It is a matter of communication. One of these parties, either Barclay’s or this woman, didn’t state who they were from the start. I teach, and in my profession no one would dare ask a sista to stop rocking a fro – but she would have to trim the ends into more of a rounded shape to command respect from students, parents, colleagues, and administrators.


  23. Bentley

    June 20, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Being a cancer survivor myself, I understand why this young lady didn’t want to coat her scalp with that creamy crack chemical concoction called a relaxer or perm. Also, maybe her hair is alittle thin after the chemo and if she cuts it low, that will be more likely to show. After chemo and your hair grows back, it may take more time for it to come back thick and full as it was before chemo. I don’t know this young lady personally so I don’t know her hair situation but as a survivor, I can imagine. Just because she didn’t have a ‘fro at the time when she was hired is irrelevent. She didn’t have cancer (to her knowledge) when she was first hired either.

    Quick history lesson: Barclay’s Bank was first financed from the slave trade, so if they have a racist culture there (with Jay-Z being their token front man), then it is no shock to me.

    I do believe in independence so I hope this young lady starts her own business. She can also accumulate wealth (and not worry about your former slave master giving you a check) by having a successful business. I hope she wins her case, use the money to invest and build wealth, start her own business and hire Black people and do a service to the Black community (since Blacks have the highest unemployment rate) and let her employees wear ‘fro’s and locs.

  24. JENNY JONES!!!

    June 20, 2014 at 7:48 pm


  25. Denise Bryant

    June 21, 2014 at 8:02 am

    I never understood what a person’s hair style had to do with their job performance. I’ve worked with countless conforming African Americans and Caucasians who were the perfect employees physically but totally incompetent. And have worked with brothers and sisters with beautiful natural hairstyles of all types, punk rocking whites and even some ghetto fabulous styled sisters who excel at their jobs. So this discrimination of our people because of our beautiful hair and choice of styles must stop.

  26. De Mush Doctor

    June 22, 2014 at 8:32 am

    So, face Book, why did you get rid of my many posts and only kept the one that you deemed appropriate to be left up on your boards? You folks are a huge mess a minute.
    You can dish but can’t take it. However, Mother nature has a funny way of intervening when you least expect it. I take delight in this every time.

  27. Vern

    June 26, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    Women of Ancient Kemet decent; you need to stop calling your race black. Black is an adjective.Please learn the eight part of speech and uses them correctly. Bryan natural hair would be beautiful if she uses her intelligent and groom her hair. She doesn’t care about her appears. If she did she would not wear her hair wild and out of shape in the work-place. People of color stop crying about people of other ethnicity are racist toward you when you are ask to follow their policies in the work-place.Please stop crying and learn how to love yourself as well as others. Peace!

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