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Ex-Employee From Westchester Sues Banana Republic For $1M Over Braids Ban

Destiny Tompkins
Destiny Tompkins Photo Credit: WABC-7 screen grab

This story has been updated.

A former Banana Republic employee at The Westchester Mall who was told her braids were "too urban" has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the company for racial discrimination.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Destiny Tompkins in state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Monday by New York City Attorney John Horowitz, names the Banana Republic, it's parent company, Gap. Inc., Michael Gennis, the former manager of the White Plains store and regional manager Jill Matejunas.

During the incident, which took place in October, the sophomore at SUNY Purchase had worked at the store for about a week when she was pulled into the office by Gennis after a visit by Matejunas and told her that braided hair violated the company's dress code.

"We plan to research how the company implemented these policies against other employees as well," said Horowitz.

According to the lawsuit, Gennis called Tompkins into his office and told her that he and Matejunas felt the braids were “too urban” and “unkempt,” and were not consistent with the company’s image.

The suit claims the words used were code words to tell Tompkins that she looked “too black” or “too African-American” for the company’s workplace, the suit said.

Gennis, who is white, also told Tompkins, who is black, that she should put “shea butter” in her hair to help her conform to the company's image, or in the suit's words, "to look more Caucasian."

Co-council Larry Beckenstein added said they plan to investigate if the "too urban" claim was also used against employees with dreadlocks or "natural-style" hair.

Right after the incident, Tompkins, an aspiring filmmaker, described the incident on Facebook and the story went viral with more than 40,000 people viewing the page.

Tompkins did not return to work. Shortly after, the company fired Gennis and issued a statement saying the Banana Republic has "zero tolerance for discrimination" and the "situation was completely unacceptable, counter to our policies, and in no way reflects our company's beliefs and values." Matetjunas was not fired.

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