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LES ECHOS

*Hair France* Grounds Male Flight Attendant For Sporting Cornrows

An Air France male flight attendant is suing the airline for discrimination and violation of his dignity. The cause of turbulence: his cornrows, which the aviation company believes are undermining its glamorous image.

(Mathias.Pastwa)
(Mathias.Pastwa)

PARIS - In Air France's eyes, Aboubakar Traoré has been having a bad hair day for the past 10 years, ever since he started sporting cornrows - a hairstyle his employer doesn't think is suitable. Traoré works for Air France as a flight attendant; and according to chapter 50 of the official flight attendants manual: stewards need to sport "a classical hairstyle, not too voluminous; hair length should be just above the shirt collar."

Cornrows and other braids on women are not forbidden.

Mr. Traoré"s superiors urged him to cut his hair. The 37-years-old complied, but kept his cornrows. From then on, he endured endless criticism and "increasing pressure," he says. Between August 2005 and March 2007, suffering from a nervous breakdown, he went on an extended sick leave.

When he came back to work, looking for a solution that would be acceptable for his employer, Traoré decided to wear a wig – "ridiculous," he admits – to hide his cornrows. His wig-wearing days didn't last long, as he found the hairpiece just too uncomfortable. He tried, unsuccessfully, to reach an agreement with the company. "I'm not saying Air France is racist but the company has ambiguous positions." The wig stayed on.

According to the airline, this is a "non-issue." The company asserts that is it has always been very open-minded, but is very clear on the fact that "the staff has to wear a standardized uniform to match the corporate image of the company."

Hairpiece for hair peace

In 2009, Traoré asked for the intervention of the High Authority for the Struggle Against Discrimination and for Equality (HALDE). In April 2011, the institution decided in his favor and considered "the Air France rules to relay a stereotyped image of men."

"Mr. Traoré"s hairstyle is clear-cut and well-groomed. There's no eccentricity in it," the institution added.

Since January, when he stopped wearing his wig, Traoré has been grounded by the airline. Traoré is suing Air France for discrimination and violation of his dignity.

Read more from Le Monde in French. Original article by Faïza Zerouala.

Photo - Mathias.Pastwa

*This a digest item, not a direct translation

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