I’m a proud black man: my contract was terminated because of my hair

I got my CLD (commercial driver’s license) in May 2024.

I applied for my first trucking job and landed at TMC Trucking in Des Moines, Iowa. The company selected me as an applicant and brought me to Des Moines, Iowa to complete orientation and eventually get me driving full-time for their company.

I was doing a great job and was one of the best in the tests. I was excited to start my new career, which would have been my first job after working so hard to get my CDL.

During orientation, the instructors took me aside and told me I had to cut my dreadlocks or I would be fired immediately. This made me feel horrible. I got dreadlocks when my father died several years ago and have not cut them since. I felt singled out because other drivers who were not black had long hair. I offered solutions such as tying my hair back, wearing a bandana, or even cutting it off.

I was told it was for safety reasons, but I informed TMC that I could wear a hard hat with my hairstyle and also told them how important my dreadlocks were to my identity and culture. The company didn’t listen to me and sent me back to Illinois by bus the next day. I cried on the ride home.

The worrying thing is that there are many white employees at TMC who drive trucks and wear safety helmets and are allowed to drive for them. I believe the decision to terminate me is racially motivated. I filed a civil rights complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and contacted an attorney who helped me with all the paperwork.

I’m not doing this to get rich or to get attention. I simply want to right a wrong. I did research on TMC and saw that they had done something similar to another black driver three years earlier, so I contacted the attorney, Ben Lynch, who handled that case.

Drew Harvey, 26 (left and right) got my dreadlocks after his father died several years ago.

Drew Harvey

Ben Lynch and I plan to file a lawsuit to seek monetary damages. We do not have a specific amount of money we are seeking at this time, but we reached out to TMC to see if we could resolve this, but they have not responded. Ben Lynch is a civil rights attorney practicing in Des Moines, Iowa, who was previously in the news fighting TMC over the same issue in 2021. I hope that bringing attention to this issue will prevent TMC from doing this in the future to other Black men who are simply looking to make an honest living.

From now on, I will continue to look for work. I hope that my next employer will accept me as I am and not judge me by the color of my skin.

Drew Harvey is a 26-year-old man from Crete, Illinois. He is represented by Ben Lynch in Des Moines, Iowa.

All opinions expressed are those of the author.

Do you have a unique experience or personal story to share? Check out our Reader Submission Guidelines and then email the My Turn team at [email protected].