A woman is suing the Hilton San Diego Bayfront for discrimination claiming the hotel singled her out because of her race and hair color.
In 2009, Voneva Denham was hired to work at the downtown hotel located on Park Boulevard near the Convention Center and Petco Park.
She says she was ready to work but says she wasn’t scheduled until she made her hair more natural for her.
Voneva Denham works as a stylist at Ambiance Salon. That was the main reason she was shocked over the job requirement for a Hilton San Diego Bayfront banquet server.
“When I interviewed for the job, the hair color wasn’t an issue. When I was offered the position and went to HR, it was told to me that my hair needed to be toned down and natural for me,” Denham told NBC 7 San Diego in an exclusive interview.
An images of the hair style she says she was told to tone down is available here. Denham provided NBC 7 San Diego with another image showing her hair at the time of the incident. She said that she did what she was directed to do but says it wasn’t enough.
“I was pulled to the side when it was time to take pictures for my ID and told that it was seen and recognized that my hair had been toned down but it needed to be all one color and natural for me or I needed to wear a wig,” Denham said.
She says she was also told she wouldn’t be scheduled to work any shifts until she did so. To keep the job, she got a wig. Denham said she quickly realized she was the only one required to wear her hair one color.
“I noticed that my supervisor had big chunks of blonde streaks with black so immediately I recognized that it wasn’t right,” she said.
Denham filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
According to the civil suit complaint, during the investigation process, a manager said the reason she was not allowed to work, was “because her hair color did not look natural for an African American person.”
“An African American woman shouldn’t feel as though she can’t have colored hair and has to wear a wig to work while everyone else doesn’t have to,” attorney Dante T. Pride said.
The EEOC granted her the right to sue. She has now filed a civil suit against the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
“I would like to see them acknowledge what they did wrong and change, you know, their policies and their practices. I would like for them to have some training in diversity, period,” Denham said.
A Hilton spokesperson told NBC 7 it is not their policy to comment on personal matters or pending litigation.