washingtonpost.com  > Print Edition > Business > Articles Inside Business

Hair Cuttery Accused of Racial Discrimination

By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 14, 2005; Page E02

Two black women filed a class-action lawsuit yesterday against the Hair Cuttery, alleging that the chain of unisex hair salons charges black customers more for services because of their race and sometimes refuses to serve them.

Monica Clark of Capitol Heights and Leslie Mercer of Reston claim in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, that they were mistreated because of their race repeatedly at several Hair Cuttery locations in the Washington area.

The suit was filed against two Falls Church companies, Creative Hairdressers Inc., which owns Hair Cuttery, and Ratner Cos., which operates the chain as well as other salons.

The Hair Cuttery, which has 800 locations across the United States, denied that the chain practices discrimination.

"We are deeply concerned by these allegations, and we are looking into this matter with great diligence. Discrimination in any form never has been, and never will be, tolerated at Hair Cuttery," Marie Manning, a Hair Cuttery spokeswoman, wrote in an e-mail. "All of our Stylists are required to provide shampoo, cut and style services to any person, regardless of hair type or race. It's the law, and any Stylist who does not abide by this policy will be terminated."

Manning wrote that stylists are given training "to ensure that all clients are treated with fairness, equality and sensitivity."

Gregory L. Murphy, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said there is evidence of repeated violations at various Hair Cuttery locations. "We know of complaints in multi-state jurisdictions," he said. "How can you have all these complaints if you are abiding by this policy?"

According to the lawsuit, Clark went to a Hair Cuttery in Clinton in January 2004 and was charged $10 more for a wash and set than the price advertised in the salon. About seven months later, Clark went to a Hair Cuttery in Waldorf, where she alleges she was kept waiting for a half-hour. She was ignored and passed over for a white male, she said in an interview.

In October, she said, she went to a Hair Cuttery in the Potomac Yard shopping center in Alexandria for a wash, cut and blow dry.

She alleges a stylist there tried to charge her $14 to cut her hair and $24 to dry it. The standard price for a wash, cut and dry was $13, she said. When Clark complained, she said, the stylist refused to serve her. After having her hair done by another stylist, Clark said, she complained to a store manager. She alleges that the manager told her that "her kind of hair" was difficult to blow dry.

Mercer, the second plaintiff, said that in August she went to a Hair Cuttery in Reston and requested a roller set. She alleges that she was denied service and was told that her "type of hair [was] too difficult to do."

The suit by Mercer and Clark is the second complaint of racial discrimination filed against Hair Cuttery in the past year. In June, an Anne Arundel County woman filed a complaint against Creative Hairdressers in circuit court in Baltimore, alleging that she was charged extra for services such as a shampoo and a haircut. The case has since been moved to federal court in Baltimore.

Last year, a Fairfax County woman sued the Hair Cuttery in Fairfax Circuit Court alleging that she was denied service on several occasions at different Hair Cuttery locations. The case was dismissed.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company