AASM (Ask A Salon Manager) posts are Q&A posts. To submit your question, email me.
“Can a salon owner decide who my clients are? For example, if she doesn’t like someone, can she tell me they’re not welcome in the salon?”
This depends upon your employment status and whether the salon owner’s reason for refusing the client constitutes discrimination or not.
If you’re a renter, then you’re a commercial tenant operating your own independent business. In that arrangement, the salon owner functions as your landlord and generally cannot dictate how you conduct your business or with whom. Unless the client poses a risk to other people within the building or behaves in a significantly disruptive way, a landlord doesn’t have a say in who you service.
If you’re an employee, the business owner can absolutely dictate to you—determining not just who you’re permitted to service as an employee of their business, but what products you use, what you wear, what you do, and how you do it. They have the right to refuse service to anyone at any time—as long as they’re not discriminating against a protected class.
When does a salon owner cross the line from “right to refuse service” to “civil rights violation?”
Whenever a client gets turned away based on their race, color, religion, national origin, disability—and in many jurisdictions now (hopefully soon on a federal level with the recently proposed Full Equality Act of 2015)—sexual orientation and gender identity. The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law, which means all US states must comply. It prohibits discrimination by privately owned “places of public accommodation.”
Discrimination aside, the owner of an employee-based establishment may refuse service to anyone if they have a specific, rational reason to refuse service. That refusal must be consistent, meaning that the policy must apply to everyone.
Generally, business owners do not like to turn away customers. Money is money, regardless of whose wallet it comes from, but in salons you often see refusal of service for one of the following reasons:
- Disruptive: Guests who are too loud are often asked not to return, since they disrupt the atmosphere for the other clients in the salon. It’s not unreasonable to require clients to respect the space by keeping their volume down and dismiss those who refuse to comply.
- Under the Influence: Obviously, anyone under the influence doesn’t belong in the salon.
- Sexual Impropriety: Whether they’re dressing or behaving overtly sexual or outright propositioning employees for sex, this has to be our #1 reason to boot out a customer. If I had a nickle for every time I reprimand or dismiss a client for something of this nature, I’d have probably $0.65—that’s a lot of nickles.
- Ineligible for Services: Any client who presents with a disorder or condition that makes them ineligible for services legally must be dismissed. Responsible salon owners will never allow their employees to operate outside of their scope of practice.
- Aggressive/Unfriendly/Disrespectful: Can a salon owner dismiss a client for being rude? You bet. We aren’t obligated to tolerate assholery.
It sounds like your salon owner has a personal issue with your client. If she simply “doesn’t like” the client on a personal level (for instance, if the client happens to be an ex-high school rival), I’d argue that she needs to grow up and move on. It’s unprofessional for her to put you in the middle of her personal issues with another person by making it your job to communicate to the client that they’re unwelcome in her establishment.
If the owner wants to ban someone she “doesn’t like” from her business, she needs to have that talk with the client herself.
If you’re renting, I’d recommend reiterating the nature of your role within the salon and telling her to stay in her lane–her landlord lane. Regardless of your relationship with the owner, you shouldn’t be serving as her middleman. Force her to star in the soap opera she’s writing, rather than allowing her to push you into some drama as her proxy.
Have you ever had to dismiss a client? Tell us below in the comments!