Blind Barber Awarded $100,000 After Being Fired

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
man getting his hair cutman getting his hair cut

“When it comes to hairstyling, I’m an artist and I take pride in what I do,” barber Joel Nixon, 29, told the Boston Herald. “When you’re in my chair, I don’t let you out of my chair until [you]’re satisfied. My vision does not compromise my ability to do my job.”

Nixon’s vision -- or, more accurately, lack thereof -- is what lead the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) to award him $100,000 after he was fired from Tony's Barber Shop in 2012 for being legally blind. Nixon suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, which affects his peripheral and night vision. 

Despite the diagnosis, Nixon was working at Tony’s Barber Shop in Bristol County, Massachusetts, the Boston Herald reports. On March 3, 2012, his boss, Tony Morales, noticed him trip over a customer’s legs and, later that day, a chair in the waiting room.

“Morales told him to pack up his things and get his wife to take him home,” MCAD wrote in a report. “[Nixon] understood that his employment was being terminated.”

Nixon reportedly struggled to find a job for three years, and things quickly got worse. His wife had a high-risk pregnancy that made his job options limited, his condo went into foreclosure and he was forced to apply for food stamps.

MCAD’s decision to award Nixon $100,000 — $75,000 for lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress — was made public on Nov. 6.

Morales said the decision was unjustified and that he plans to appeal it.

“It’s a bunch of lies,” he said. "It’s sad that people like Joel try to take advantage of their situation and create false accusations."

Despite the judgment, Nixon’s future is still uncertain. Though he’s working privately as a barber, he may eventually go completely blind.

In the meantime, Nixon hopes to make memories with his son. 

“I could wake up someday and be completely blind, but my goal is to have a nice home with a nice backyard for my son,” he said. “I’ve never been to Disneyland, and I want to take him. I want to take him before I lose my vision. I’m trying to do the best I can.”

Sources: Boston Herald, NY Daily News / Photo credit: Jason White/Flickr