Whataburger releases statement regarding employee's dress code violation

Longview woman says she was fired for refusing to take out hair braids

Whataburger contacted us and released this statement:

"Our dress code is designed not just for brand consistency but also for food and personal safety reasons. Hair restraints are essential sanitary measures in food service. They are applied uniformly without regard to the hair style of individual employees.We discussed the policy with this team member, and she chose not to adhere to it and instead chose to leave here on her own. She was a valued team member and we're disappointed with her decision."
 - Whataburger of East Texas



LONGVIEW (KYTX) - Lameela Coleman had worked four months at the Whataburger on Gilmer Road in Longview.

That was until Thursday, when a franchise manager told her, lose the braids, or lose the job.

"In the employee handbook, it said the employee had to be kept nice and neat, kept nice and neat. There was nothing in the handbook that said I was not allowed to have braids," Coleman says.

She says management read it differently.

"I don't know if he is not educated, or accepted that this is the new millenium and everybody has a different style of their own, and that it is okay to be an individual, because we see a lot of women on TV that's professional, you know, that have braids. It's the way that you wear them," Coleman says.

People at the City of Longview's Environmental Health Department tell me, as long as you wear a hair net, there is no state or local law preventing a person with hair braids or extensions working in a kitchen that serves the public.

"I feel that they make me look very nice. I don't have to do anything to my hair, and there's nothing wrong with it," Coleman says. "My braid is not going to fall out in somebody's food. My whole braid would literally have to fall out."

This restaurant is part of the Longview-based Whataburger of East Texas, Inc., franchise.

We called the franchisee and Whataburger's corporate office in San Antonio.

We were told that, because it's Memorial Day weekend, we likely won't get a response  from the restaurant until Wednesday.

"Our dress code is designed not just for brand consistency but also for food and personal safety reasons. Hair restraints are essential sanitary measures in food service. They are applied uniformly without regard to thehair style of individual employees.We discussed the policy with this team member, and she chose not to adhere to it and instead chose to leave here on her own. She was a valued team member and we're disappointed with her decision." - Whataburger of East Texas


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