As more offices allow their employees to work remotely, some employers have begun to ease up on rules regarding tattoos, piercings, and hair colour.
However, one woman named Emily Benschoter was told she needed to cover up her pink hair after she already accepted a job offer. In order to keep the position, the 29-year-old decided to wear wigs instead.
“Dying my hair for a job I work at for 40 hours per week wasn’t an option,” Benschoter told Newsweek in an interview. “I am a self-expressive person and I feel very confident with pink hair so I came up with a solution to keep the job and my hair.”
She said that when she interviewed for her front-of-house role in the hospitality industry, it was not in-person or over video chat, so the interviewer was unaware of what she looked like at the time. Benschoter only decided to reach out to her manager before her first shift to ask if pink hair was allowed.
Because her dyed hair wasn’t allowed, her manager suggested wearing a wig. Since then, Benschoter has posted multiple videos on her TikTok account - under the username @emuhleeebee - of the various wigs she wears to work.
Her first wig video dates back to 19 July, and features a blonde, shoulder-length wig with text across the screen that reads: “When you have pink hair but corporate does not approve so you wear terrible wigs.” The videos have amassed thousands of views, with a few reaching the millions.
She explained that despite wearing the wigs, she doesn’t support her employer for making her wear them to begin with. “It’s dehumanising that I can’t be accepted at face value because my hair is a non-traditional colour,” Benschoter told Newsweek. “It’s so superficial that my hair colour is an obstacle.”
The TikToker continued: “I prefer my pink hair, it’s me to my core. So now I purposely pick wacky wigs which is quite funny.”
"The worse the wig, the better," she said. "It is a way to open up the conversation with the customers who think it is insane that I have to cover my pink hair."
Gena Cox is an organisational psychologist who spoke to Newsweek about hair in the workplace, and why something like an unnatural hair colour can still be against the rules at certain corporations. “Companies focus disproportionately on employees’ visual characteristics when they have a preconceived notion of what the ‘ideal employee’ looks like and when they believe their clients and customers share that bias,” she said.
"The bottom line is, rejection of employees’ coloured hair is a form of bias and a sign that the workplace is not inclusive."
Many TikTok users rushed to the comments section under Benschoter’s videos, where they shared how they were also forced to cover up their hair or tattoos that didn’t comply with company policy.
“I had to cover my blue hair at Applebee’s so I wore a jheri curl wig,” one commenter wrote.
“Our local hospital has this rule. My friends wear Karen wigs that match. It’s unhingedly hilarious,” another mentioned.
“We aren’t allowed to show our tattoos at work. My boss had a small, beautiful one she covered with a SpongeBob bandaid every day,” someone else commented.