Probation officer claims he was fired for having dreadlocks

by: Diana Davis Updated:

Williams said his supervisors at the state's Decatur Department of Corrections office first asked him to cut his hair in 2010. He refused.

STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. - A state probation officer said he was fired for refusing to cut his dreadlocks.

Now, Richard Williams, of Stone Mountain, said he is filing a federal discrimination complaint.

Williams told Channel 2's Diana Davis it took him nine years to grow out his hair. He said his dreadlocks are an integral part of who he is.

"For spiritual reasons, I believe that my hair, the locks of my hair, is my strength, my inner self. It has become a part of who I am," Williams said.

He told Davis he filed the complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because he believes the Corrections Department discriminated against him based on both race and gender.

"I think that they were just completely wrong, and they should give my job back and any money, any lost wages," Williams said.

Williams said his supervisors at the state's Decatur Department of Corrections office first asked him to cut his hair in 2010. He refused.

A year later, he said, for the first time, the Department of Corrections issued a written policy about hair.

When Williams continued to refuse to cut his dreadlocks, he was fired.

The termination letter said he was insubordinate for refusing to follow the dress code and because he failed to cut his dreadlocks.

It spells out the policy against men wearing dreadlocks or braids and long hair.

Williams said since female officers are allowed to wear long hair and dreadlocks, he should be, too.

"Someone has to step up to the plate and say this is wrong. I spend 24 hours a day being Richard Williams, and I spent eight hours a day being a probation officer. I don't think my job or what I do for a paycheck should dictate how I am as a person and how I see myself," Williams said.

Williams said he tried to compromise by pinning up his hair to above his shoulders. It wasn't enough. Now, he is ready for a fight.

"And I also want an apology, and I want an open apology," Williams said.

Davis reached out to the Department of Corrections for a comment, but no one responded.