Many hair stylists are subject to unacceptable levels of bullying and harassment, and often feel as though there is no support when they need help.

Today, we’re sharing a story from one of our members, told in her own words, after she was sexually harassed by a client at work.

I had been working for a cutting franchise in a big city for about a year, and loved it! This salon had such a broad demographic of clients, I had never seen anything like it, but it truly was a great experience. On just an ordinary day I had called though a client, Steve* for a quick cut.

I am a chatter-box with my clients but keep it professional. Everything was going great. Steve was a bit strange but manageable until…

He started asking me really detailed questions about myself, like, pushing for more information about where I live (I normally just say a general area and not my suburb) and where I go shopping, etc. and I’ve never felt so uncomfortable.

Something about him just put a frighted feeling through my body. Trying to steer the conversation in a different direction, I told him I live with my partner and son who I’ve just introduced to video games.

I thought this would at least let him know I’m a happy housemaker when I’m not at work, and take his interest off me personally. The conversation goes as followed:

Steve: “Oh, so you’re a gamer?” 

Me: “Yeah, a little bit now. I have my son, so I don’t have the time.” 

Steve: “I live close to you, you should come round and see my set up.” 

Me: “Oh no, I don’t see clients out of work!” (with an uncomfortable laugh)

Steve very quietly said, “you could come to my room and I’d lock you in.” 

My stomach twisted in knots. I said, “excuse me?” 

Steve said, “oh, it was nothing, never mind.”

My instinct was to hurry and finish the cut through silence. I handed him to our receptionist and went out the back room to have a breather. My team leader had noticed my sudden change in behaviour and came to ask what had happened.

It was in that conversation I learnt at that salon we don’t put up with that, our owner was more than supportive, and we could say no to clients and stop haircuts midway if need be, and that this man (probably in his 50’s) had mad another youngish stylist feel uncomfortable. 

A few weeks later Steve* had come again and requested me! Thankfully, this time my team leader remembered him had firm words and banned him for coming into our store again.

Knowing I have that support now after nearly ten years in the industry has made me realise stylists put up with a lot. It may be a creep like Steve, or someone being racist or discriminatory towards you. It’s not ok to just “laugh it off”, we can and should say no to servicing a client who has no respect for us! ✊

While we know some hair stylists have the support of their team and the courage to speak up if something is wrong at work, many aren’t so lucky. We’re conditioned to put our clients first, even if we’re not comfortable. Our member is extremely grateful for the support of her co-workers once she asked for it, but even after she was threatened by the client, still felt like she had to finish the service. 

There’s a massive movement across Australia, and women are standing up and saying that harassment, discrimination, and assault is unacceptable in the workplace. Every woman, every person, has the right to feel safe and protected at work.

If anyone ever makes you feel unsafe, whether it’s a client, a team-mate, a manager or even the owner, you should never have to put up with it.

If you need help and you’re not sure what to do, HSA’s team of experts can offer you the right advice and give you practical next steps to help manage an unsafe work environment.

*Name has been changed to protect the identities of everyone involved.