California corrections officer fears he will lose job over dreadlocks

A California corrections officer says he faces disciplinary action because of his dreadlocks
CBS News

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. – A California corrections officer says that he could lose his job over his dreadlocks because although female officers in the state can have long hair, male officers cannot.

Mark Williams, who works at the California Institution for Men in Chino, is on an administrative leave. He told Tom Wait of CBS Los Angeles that he will not cut his hair. 

Mark Williams
CBS News
 "Why are we worried about one particular individual who has his hair long?” he asked. “What does that have to do with the ability, my ability to do my job? There are other things we can worry about.”

Williams said his dreadlocks were never mentioned in the past.

“It’s not like I just had my hair long yesterday. My hair has been long for years, so why is it an issue now?” he said.

Bill Sessa, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, said the policy was clear: Men must cut their hair above the collar; women are allowed longer hair, but only if it’s placed in a bun.

 “The fact is that we have a dress code for the officers for safety reasons," Sessa said. "An officer cannot have long hair that goes beyond the shirt collar.”

Sessa said every officer hired knows about the rules and takes an oath to follow the dress code.

“My thing is, if my hair is up, off my collar, wearing this hat like a female or any person with long hair, what does that have to do with my ability to do my job?” Williams said.