Supervisors at the New York Police Department have been warned not to discriminate against redheaded police officers. Manhattan lieutenants and sergeants were told via an internal memo that harassing redheads would not be tolerated.
“We’re apparently victims now,” said one cop with red hair. “We’re protected from discrimination.”
Although no lawsuit has been filed, a claim based on unfair treatment because of red hair would be supported by federal regulations. Under federal law, workplace discrimination based on race, national origin, skin color, religion, sex or disability is strictly prohibited.
Since people with red hair predominantly have roots in Britain and Ireland, they would be covered under the race or national origin portion of the law, The New York Post reported.
“It’s an innocuous-seeming criteria, but if it has a ‘disparate impact’ on a certain racial group, red hair could be considered the basis of discrimination,” said Justine Lisser of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, DC.
The NYPD has one of the most diverse workforces in the country, but a substantial percentage of its officers are Irish. According to one retired cop, he was called a “red-headed devil” while growing up.
“You get abuse every day when your hair is red,” he said. “You get beaten and chased. You better learn how to fight.”
One other cop thought the anti-bias message was unnecessary.
“To put redheads in a protective class — that’s ridiculous,” he said. “Toughen up.”