Sandra Rawline
© Houston Chronicle/APSandra Rawline with her lawyer Robert Dowdy.

Employee sues for discrimination claiming she was fired over her refusal to dye her silver locks

Sandra Rawline's hair turned grey when she was in her early 20s. She stuck with it, proudly displaying her shoulder-length locks with their natural silver streaks. "This is who I am," she said.

But it seems that who she was, when it comes to grey hair in the workplace, was not satisfactory to her Texan employer. In August 2009 her boss approached her and told her to confect a more "upscale image" to go with her real estate firm's move from the Houston outskirts into a central commercial area.

Rawline, 52, said she was told to come to work wearing "younger, fancy suits" and lots of jewellery. And she had to dye that hair - her boss even offered to do the colouring.

When she refused, the Houston Chronicle reports, she was fired within a week and replaced by a woman 10 years her junior. She has sued for discrimination in the Houston courts.

Rawline told the paper her hair colour had never been an issue until that point since she joined the firm, Capital Title, in 2003. "I was really working hard for them," she said, pointing out that she won the outstanding employee award in 2004 and 2005.

Since being forced out of the company, Rawline's income has fallen from $48,000 (£30,000) as a manager in Capital Title to $30,000 as a customer service worker in another firm.

Capital Title, which acts as a clearing house for property deals, dismissed her allegations of age and hair discrimination as "completely baseless and preposterous". The company's chief executive, Bill Shaddock, told the Chronicle: "I'd hire a 150-year-old individual if they were worthy."

But Rawline said there had never been any complaints about her performance before she was so abruptly sacked. Her Houston-based lawyer, Robert Dowdy, said: "I don't think anyone should be embarrassed or humiliated for growing older."