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Hotel Allows Clerk To Keep Ethnic Hairstyle

January 7, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Marriott Corp. agreed Wednesday to let a black reservations clerk at a Washington, D.C., hotel keep her cornrow hairstyle.

″My front office manager called and notified me I was able to return with the braids in my hair, and that corporate headquarters had discussed the issue and found some braids are acceptable to wear,″ said Pamela Mitchell, 25, a part-time employee at the J.W. Marriott hotel downtown.

Hotel management earlier had told Mitchell that her hairstyle was ″extreme,″ and against corporate policy. Mitchell, who had received two orders to change the hairstyle, was sent home Monday with pay and told to report back Wednesday evening for a meeting with hotel officials.

The decision to allow Mitchell to keep her hairstyle caused the meeting to be called off.

The Washington-based company said Wednesday that its dress policy ″was being misinterpreted by the hotel,″ said Terry Souers, director of corporate relations.

″We found that her hairdo was acceptable,″ Souers said.

Mitchell had contended that the hotel discriminates against black women, with whom the style is popular. The hairstyle, in which the hair is arranged in a pattern of tight braids separated by wide parts, originated in Africa.

The company statement said Mitchell’s hairdo was neat and unadorned, but ″other cases involving other kinds of cornrows might not be acceptable.″

Mitchell had filed a complaint Tuesday with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, which said it was investigating the incident.

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