One Black North Carolina teenager recently faced what she considered to be racial discrimination at her former job at Chick-fil-A. Autumn Williams, 16, said she was sent home from work due to her “unnatural” blonde braids which she has worn since the day she was hired.

Back in July, Williams thought she was going to work for a typical day at the establishment. She was caught by surprise when a manager pulled her away from her counter position to be informed that her hair violated Chick-fil-A’s dress code.

Williams and Chick-fil-A

Photo Credit: Autumn Williams

“She said, ‘Our supervisor drove by yesterday and noticed blond in your hair and since blond is an unnatural color to you, we have to ask you to take the blond out of your hair and then come back when there’s none,'” Williams told

The teen said her manager then told her that she understood the process behind taking out braids. Therefore, she was told to take her time and email the manager when she is ready to come back. Williams’s mother, Nina Burch, was given the supervisor’s number to ask for more clarity as to why her daughter was sent home. When the two were on the phone, Burch said no further clarification was given. The supervisor just told her to refer to the handbook for any questions she may have.

In regard to hair, the handbook only states that “hairstyles must be neat and professional in appearance. Unnatural hair colors or eccentric styles (e.g., Mohawks, shaven designs, etc.) are not permitted.”

Burch and Williams were under the impression that the colors referred to in the handbook meant colors that are not natural such as blue, purple or pink. Williams has never dyed her hair and the chosen hair color for the braids best matched the color of the hair that grows out of her scalp.

Hair-Based Discrimination

Williams’ story is an addition to the long history of Black women who are discriminated against in the workplace. A 2023 study revealed that one-fifth of the Black women surveyed between the ages of 25 and 34 had been sent home from work because of their hair. Although Williams is much younger than the survey’s participants, these numbers still affect her and a generation of young adults looking to get a start in the corporate world. The CROWN Act still has yet to be passed in North Carolina.

The Chick-fil-A location has since apologized to Williams saying that “this shouldn’t have happened.” She was welcomed to return back to work but has decided to find a new job.

Burch says they have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “to see if there’s a route we should pursue legally.”