A Washington hair stylist who shaved her head to support her cancer-ridden sister says she was forced to quit her job after being told she had to wear a wig.
Marisa Lowe began battling stage III ovarian cancer last year. In a show of solidarity, her big sister, Melanie Strandberg, shaved her head. When the sisters learned that Lowe’s cancer had returned two weeks ago, Strandberg got out her clippers once again.
"My sister and I have been best friends for as long as I can remember,” Strandberg said. “We’ve done everything together."
Her sister was very appreciative.
“It meant more than, I think, she even knows,” Lowe said.
When Strandberg came to work after shaving her head the second time, she said her supervisors asked her to wear a wig because her baldness might make clients uncomfortable. They also allegedly told her that she could not market hair products without hair. Strandberg said her only choice was to quit, Today News reported.
“I decided that I can’t just support her 50 percent of the time,” Strandberg said of Lowe. “That’s not why I did it.”
She posted her resignation letter on Facebook:
“I was told I could possibly offend guests and would not be able to market hair sales without hair,” she wrote. “I believe none of this to be just nor true in the least bit. I feel I would inspire and do our community proud in showing my support ... I can only hope that someone fighting cancer never gets told that they may offend someone due to their appearance.”
Strandberg's former employer, Northern Quest Resort and Casino, said she can have her job back whenever she wants.
“We have no policy that prohibits [shaved heads],” said general manager, Phil Haugen.
No matter what happens, the sisters are looking forward to a future together.
"When it comes down to it, you have your family and you have your faith,” Lowe said. “If you can't stick up for those two things, then what really in this world are we willing to stick up for?"
Statement from the company-
Late in the day on Thursday, June 13, one of our employees, Melanie Strandberg, resigned via text message, saying that she was asked to wear a wig after shaving her head in support of her sister, who has cancer.
We are very concerned about Melanie's reported experience. It is inconsistent with our values, culture and past practices and it’s unacceptable. Right now we’re conducting a thorough internal review to determine the facts. We would welcome the opportunity to talk with Melanie directly and have made that offer repeatedly.
To be clear, Northern Quest does not have a policy that prohibits team members from shaving their heads. And there is NO policy that requires someone with a shaved head to wear a wig. Over the years we have had other team members who have undergone treatment for cancer and others who have shaved their heads in support of family or friends.
Melanie’s job is still here for her. We recognize this is an emotional and stressful situation for her and her family. We hope she will choose to stay on as a member of the Northern Quest team.