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Discriminated for dreadlocks, Black trucker battles for justice

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UhDrew Harvey, a 26-year-old aspiring truck driver from Crete, Illinois, recounts his unsettling experience with TMC Trucking in Des Moines, Iowa. Despite excelling during orientation and being a top performer in testing, Harvey faced an unexpected and painful ultimatum: cut his dreadlocks or be terminated.

Harvey, who earned his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in May 2024, had hoped to embark on a promising career in trucking. His excitement was palpable as he joined TMC Trucking, a company that, at first, seemed to offer a bright future. However, his orientation took a sharp turn when trainers demanded he cut his dreadlocks, citing safety concerns.

“I obtained my CDL in May 2024 and applied for my first job as a trucker, landing upon TMC Trucking in Des Moines, Iowa,” Harvey explained. “The company selected me as an applicant and brought me to Des Moines for orientation to eventually get me driving full-time for their company. I was doing a great job and was one of the top performers in testing.”

But the situation quickly deteriorated. “I was taken aside by trainers and told that I needed to cut my dreadlocks off or I would be terminated immediately,” Harvey recounted. “This made me feel horrible. I got my dreadlocks when my father died several years ago and have not cut them since. I felt singled out since other non-Black drivers had long hair.”

Harvey proposed several alternatives to comply with the company’s safety policies, including tying his hair back, wearing a covering, or even trimming his dreadlocks. However, TMC Trucking remained adamant, insisting that his hairstyle posed a safety risk. Harvey, in turn, emphasized that he could safely wear a hard hat with his dreadlocks and that his hairstyle held deep cultural and personal significance.

“TMC has many white employees who drive trucks—wearing hard hats—who are allowed to drive for them,” Harvey stated. “I believe the decision to let me go is racially motivated.”

Feeling discriminated against, Harvey filed a civil rights complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and sought legal counsel from Ben Lynch, a civil rights attorney based in Des Moines, Iowa. Lynch had previously handled a similar case against TMC Trucking in 2021, involving another Black driver who faced discrimination due to his hairstyle.

“I am not doing this to get rich or for attention. I simply want to right a wrong,” Harvey asserted. “I researched TMC and saw that they had done something similar to another Black driver three years prior, so I contacted the attorney, Ben Lynch, who handled that case.”

Harvey and Lynch plan to file a lawsuit seeking monetary damages, although they have not yet determined a specific amount. They have attempted to resolve the issue with TMC Trucking but have received no response.

“I hope that bringing attention to this issue will prevent TMC from doing it in the future to other Black men simply seeking to earn an honest living,” Harvey said.

As he continues his job search, Harvey remains hopeful that his next employer will judge him based on his skills and qualifications, rather than his appearance. “I am hopeful my next employer will accept me for who I am and not judge me based on my skin color.”

Drew Harvey’s story is a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle against racial discrimination in the workplace. His courage and determination to seek justice not only highlight the importance of cultural identity but also underscore the need for systemic change to ensure equal treatment for all.

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