Canada Security guard accuses supervisors of crossing 'a racial line' with talk about his hair

12:03  04 july  2018
12:03  04 july  2018 Source:   cbc.ca

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John Wall wearing a suit and tie: This is how Ainab Abdullahi showed up for on June 20. According to GardaWorld's employee manual, hair must be kept clean, neat, trimmed and well-groomed and worn in a manner that allows full vision.© Submitted/Abdullahi This is how Ainab Abdullahi showed up for on June 20. According to GardaWorld's employee manual, hair must be kept clean, neat, trimmed and well-groomed and worn in a manner that allows full vision.

Does the security guard in the headline photo look "unprofessional" to you?

Some of Ainab Abdullahi's GardaWorld colleagues thought his hairstyle wasn't the right look for his job at a building in Toronto's financial district last month.

After going through what he considers a humiliating and racially-charged conversation that day about his natural hair, he says his employer needs anti-bias training, similar to what Starbucks had last month , and says he will be filing a human rights complaint.

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'It is a racial line because as people of African descent, we have a certain texture to our hair and it's something I cannot personally control.' - Ainab Abdullahi , security guard for GardaWorld

The 21 year-old has worked for GardaWorld for more than three years and says his hair hasn't been an issue, until now.

"I get it cut twice a week," he said running his fingers through the longer, naturally curly part on top of his head.

That part he keeps slicked back in a tight bun.

Two weeks ago, before his 6 a.m. shift, he wore his hair in his usual style, which is in compliance with GardaWorld's uniform policy.

He said the shift turned sour as soon as he walked into the Scotia Plaza building downtown to meet with his GardaWorld team.

"They did, like, a dirty stare," he said.

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Tompall Glaser standing in front of a building: When Abdullahi took his hair out of the elastic he said he knew the other guards wouldn't be happy with that look, either.© Oliver Walters/CBC When Abdullahi took his hair out of the elastic he said he knew the other guards wouldn't be happy with that look, either.

"They started talking about my hair, saying the man bun is not professional," he said.

Two GardaWorld employees, the night supervisor and the site supervisor, and eventually another guard joined in to talk about what to do about his hair, recalled Abdullahi.

One wanted to see his hair down.

"I was like, 'Well, you're going to see my curls, then, and if you don't like this, you're going to hate that," he said.

As he predicted, after Abullahi took his hair down, they asked him to tie it back up.

a man standing in front of a building: Abdullahi says GardaWorld could use some racial sensitivity training because talking to someone about their natural hair and whether it's appropriate is 'a thin line.'© Oliver Walters/CBC Abdullahi says GardaWorld could use some racial sensitivity training because talking to someone about their natural hair and whether it's appropriate is 'a thin line.'

He told CBC Toronto he felt they were trying to "whiten" his appearance.

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'Try to get shorter hair,' guard heard saying on audio recording

The more he thought about it, the more he felt it was racist.

"It is a racial line because of people of African descent, we have a certain texture to our hair and it's something I cannot personally control," he said.

"To conform to your standards [requires] me, what, shaving it off completely?"

About an hour and a half later, he was called in for a second meeting with the other security guards.

He recorded it on his phone and provided the audio to CBC Toronto.

"This is my hair so, not sure what I can do," Abdullahi tells them on the audio.

He said they were discussing the possibility of sending him home or to work at a different building.

"Try to get shorter hair," one of his colleagues says on the recording.

Abdullahi alleges he was then sent to work in an area of the building where he wouldn't be seen by the public as much.

It was about the blazer, not the hair, GardaWorld says

CBC Toronto sent photos of Abdullahi's hair that day to a representative at GardaWorld and they confirmed that his bun was within their standards.

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"Mr. Abdullahi's hairstyle in the photos is compliant with GardaWorld's policy," wrote spokesperson Isabelle Panelli.

She said the problem that day was that Abdullahi was supposed to be wearing a blazer to work at Scotia Plaza.

"He was relocated to an area on the site where the blazer is not mandatory."

But Abdullahi showed CBC Toronto the email he was sent from GardaWorld's scheduling department confirming his shift and the only instruction was to "wear a proper uniform with black shoes."

Usually, he says, when a blazer is required, it says so in the shift email.

Panelli went on to tout the diversity among the company's staff.

'GardaWorld employees at the Scotiabank Plaza site are an excellent example of our worldwide workforce diversity.' - Isabelle Panelli, GardaWorld spokesperson

She ended the statement saying the firm will investigate the matter.

But that doesn't satisfy Abdullahi.

"I'm going to twist their arm to get an honest response," he said.

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