Salon sued over racial discrimination

DOWNEY, Calif. The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Brenda McElmore; she says she was denied service at the JC Penney store salon at the Stonewood Shopping Center in Downey. She says she will never forget how badly she was treated.

"'We don't do African-American hair,'" said Brenda McElmore, recounting her experience at the salon in question. She said it was a humiliating experience to be refused service. She said the experience took her back to the days of overt racism and discrimination.

"I lived those things, I didn't read about them," said McElmore at Thursday's new conference. "I'm a person of the '60s. And it needs to stop. Not just for me, but for everybody. We don't need to discriminate for any reason. We need to get educated on culture and customs."

McElmore, who explains she routinely wears wigs, said she walked into a JC Penney styling salon at the Stonewood Shopping Center in Downey in mid-August to have the gray hair at her temples dyed the same color as her natural hair. According to her, she was denied service because she is black.

"It was shocking to hear them say this in this manner in 2008," said McElmore.

Speaking alongside her attorney Gloria Allred, McElmore explained she wasn't asking for any special services, just a simple dye job.

"And if you only want color -- I'm not asking for asking for a perm, not a style, or anything else," said McElmore. "It doesn't take a special person or special skill to do that."

Thursday, Gloria Allred filed a lawsuit against JC Penney on behalf of McElmore, alleging a viola0tion of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from denying services on account of race.

"JC Penney sent Brenda a letter from the new store manager apologizing and trying to explain that the receptionist may have felt that they did not have the 'Technical proficiency to perform the service you require.' In my opinion, this is an omission that she was denied service and it is patently absurd since no special technical proficiency is required to color the hair of an African-American woman," said attorney Gloria Allred.

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