A woman has lodged a complaint with the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commission after a Brisbane barber shop refused to cut her hair because of her gender.
But the shop owner says his “hands are tied”, because of a lease agreement which prevents his business from competing against women’s salons in the same shopping centre.
Vivien Houston, 33, was recently denied service at Jimmy Rod’s Barber Shop in The Gap Village Shopping Centre.
“I walked in and one of the barbers at the shop stopped me and I thought she was going to say they had too many people in line and wouldn’t be able to fit me in before closing, but she actually said I can’t serve you because you’re a woman,” Ms Houston said.
“I thought she was kidding. She said ‘No, we signed a lease with centre management that says we’re not able to cut women’s hair’ and the reason for that is that they don’t want Jimmy Rod’s Barbershop to cause competing business for the hair dressing salons in the centre.”
Ms Houston said she had been going to the store in The Gap for two years, and was surprised and angered when she was turned away.
“I can’t believe this. I also thought it was just nonsense because I wouldn’t go to the hair-dressing salons in the centre anyway,” she said.
“I want to use a barber shop, because that’s the style of haircut I have.
“If we allow people to apply discrimination, even in the most smallest sense such as getting your haircut which seems trivial, we essentially breed more discrimination.”
Ms Houston said she tried to contact the centre management to make a formal complaint but said their response unsatisfactory.
The shopping centre management was contacted for comment.
‘We don’t discriminate’: barber shop owner
Jimmy Rod’s managing director James O’Brien confirmed women were not able to have haircuts at their shop in The Gap due to a lease agreement.
“We are exclusively only to cut men’s hair due to three other hairdressers being in the centre and if we do cut women’s hair there we will be breached and it could cause our lease to get cancelled,” he said.
“Unfortunately I can’t negotiate. That’s the centre’s rules. In all our other stores – we have 13 shops – we cut women’s hair.
“What am I supposed to do, cut her hair and get breached and not have a business? My hands are tied, I can’t do it.”
Mr O’Brien said he would seek legal advice.
“My name’s going to get thrown in the paper for discrimination when it’s not even my rule. That’s an absolute joke if you ask me,” he said.
“She could have gone to any other Jimmy Rod’s store. We don’t discriminate – money’s money.
“I’m going to be called a sexist in one way or I’ll get a breach on my lease the other way. So my hands are quite tied at the moment.”
Legislation prevents discrimination based on sex
Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland (ADCQ) said it was unable to reveal if a complaint has been lodged.
“The Queensland Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 prevents discrimination in the area of goods and services, based on sex and a variety of other attributes,” a commission spokeswoman said.
“The legislation specifically states that a person who supplies goods and services must not discriminate against another person by failing to supply the goods or services.
It was unclear whether any legal exemptions would apply in this case.
Ms Houston said she had since found another barber who will cut her hair.
“I think it’s not right for hair salons, or barbers or any kind of shop that’s providing goods and services to anyone to discriminate based on gender,” she said.