A Camas salon owner is being sued for wrongful termination and gender discrimination.
In a complaint filed Jan. 31, in Clark County Superior Court, Erika Jordan, a former hair stylist at Moonlight Salon in downtown Camas, alleges the salon and its owner, Megan Strand, violated state law by firing Jordan during her parental leave.
The lawsuit contends Jordan is entitled to an undisclosed amount of money for economic damages, attorney fees and non-economic damages related to “emotional distress and humiliation and damage to (Jordan’s) professional reputation.”
Jordan’s attorney, Colin McHugh, of the Vancouver-based Navigate Law Group, said his client “would like to see the salon be better about taking care of pregnant women and new moms.”
“She is suing for damages. That’s important,” McHugh said, “because we want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to people like (Jordan).”
The complaint stems from a text Strand allegedly sent to Jordan on Oct. 24, 2022 — two months into Jordan’s three-month parental leave period — terminating the hair stylist’s employment with Moonlight Salon.
“Hey! After some time to think about it I have decided to not have you come back from leave,” Strand allegedly texted Jordan on Oct. 24, 2022. “I just don’t have the resources to do the continued training you’ll need on a limited schedule. I wish you the best luck on your journey both as a stylist and momma. Let me know if you have any questions.”
Jordan said the Oct. 24 text left her reeling. Jordan said she and Strand had been in touch via text throughout her parental leave and had even discussed the hair stylist’s plan to return to work just one week before Strand fired her.
When Jordan reached out to Strand on Oct. 17, 2022, to ask if she could work a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule two days a week, beginning in mid-December, Strand allegedly texted back: “Ok sounds good! I’ll confirm later this week but I’m thinking that will work great.”
The text also mentioned that Strand would likely restrict Jordan’s color services when she returned, due to the upcoming winter holidays.
“I know you’ll be out of the swing of things and pre-holiday I just can’t risk any redos,” Strand allegedly texted Jordan on Oct. 17. “I hope that’s OK — just know we need a little more training/refresh after being off so long.
Jordan replied: “That’s perfect. I was thinking the same thing.”
One week, Jordan found out she would not have a job to return to following her parental leave.
“I was very shocked. And I was really upset and disappointed because I liked working at the salon,” Jordan said.
Strand, a 2010 Stevenson High School graduate who purchased Salon Magnolia in downtown Camas in 2016, and later changed the salon’s name as well as its location – moving from Northeast Fourth Avenue to a new space inside the Clara Flats mixed-use building on Northeast Sixth Avenue in 2020 – hired Jordan as the salon’s receptionist in April 2021.
Jordan, of Vancouver, was attending beauty school in Portland while she worked as a receptionist. She graduated in November 2021, and began training as a hair stylist at Moonlight Salon in January 2022, Jordan said. In between graduating and beginning her job as a stylist, Jordan discovered she was pregnant and told Strand about the pregnancy on Dec. 20, 2021. Jordan said she worked as a stylist in training from January through April 2022.
The lawsuit contends that Jordan was working as a “fully independent hair stylist” between April 2022 and the beginning of her medical leave on July 13, 2022. After her daughter was born, Jordan switched over to her guaranteed parental leave period afforded by the Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave Act.
In June 2022, Jordan texted Strand to talk about her return from parental leave. Strand’s response, according to the lawsuit, implied that she approved of Jordan’s plan to return to work two days a week.
“Ideally, you’d just do Friday/Saturday if you’re gonna do 2 days, but I’m open to other ideas. What works best for you?” Strand texted Jordan on June 15, 2022.
Jordan said “that should work just fine” and asked if Strand was OK with her returning to work in mid-December. “Yes!” Strand replied. “We can check in about 6 weeks before to open your schedule.”
Jordan said she never thought her parental leave would jeopardize her return to work, especially considering the fact that several other Moonlight Salon employees had recently taken their own parental leave to care for newborn babies and had been able to return to a limited, part-time schedule.
In fact, she said, the salon’s reputation as a good workplace for new parents was something that drew her to Moonlight Salon in the first place.
“It was owned by a woman and (it seemed) like they supported moms,” Jordan said. “I knew when I got hired that I would want to be a mom. There were six of us who were pregnant that year. Three had come back (from their parental leave) while I was still there.”
McHugh added that Moonlight Salon used photos of its employees’ babies – including Jordan’s daughter — to help market the salon.
On July 19, 2022, Strand texted Jordan to ask if she had a photo of her baby that the salon could share online: “Hey momma! Hope (you’re) doing good,” Strand texted. “I would love to post a picture of (your) sweet little (baby)! Let me know if that’s ok and send a picture when you have a minute.”
Jordan gave permission and shared photos of her baby with Strand.
On July 20, 2022 Moonlight Salon posted a picture of Jordan’s newborn on Instagram and advertised the salon, boasting that employees had given birth to six babies within the previous year: “@blondebyerika welcomed her sweet baby girl last week! Over the past year we’ve welcomed 6 babies into the salon — three boys and three girls!”
McHugh said Jordan feels as if she and her newborn daughter “were used and dumped.”
“My team noticed Moonlight really uses the birth of children to sell their salon,” McHugh told The Post-Record this week. “If you look on Instagram there will be a really interesting, beautiful haircut that gets 10 ‘likes,’ then a new baby photo that gets over 100 ‘likes,’ so it does seem like they push the fact that they have working moms there to help sell the salon.”
Since her dismissal via text in October 2022, Jordan said she has struggled to find other employment opportunities.
“I’m still looking for work and taking care of my daughter in the meantime,” Jordan said. “I’m having a hard time with all of it.”
She becomes anxious thinking about her sudden, unexpected dismissal, Jordan said.
“Some days it’s really hard on me and on my family,” Jordan said.
Although there are state and federal laws that help protect a person’s job when they return from parental leave, those laws typically apply only to larger corporations with more than 50 employees.
Still, McHugh said, there are protections for new parents even when they work for smaller companies like Moonlight Salon.
“Law in Washington and federally continues to expand the protections for pregnant workers and the need for parental leave. Future parents like Ms. Jordan should never have to fear that they will be fired for being pregnant, having a child or taking parental leave,” McHugh said. “Our hope is that this case sends a message to employers big and small in Southwest Washington that they should leave soon-to-be or new parents alone.”
Salon owner defends decision
Strand told The Post-Record this week that she has not yet had a chance to review the lawsuit with her attorney, and defended her decision to end Jordan’s employment.
“Moonlight Salon is a small business and has limited resources,” Strand told The Post-Record via email. “(Jordan) was not an experienced hair stylist, and still required supervision and training … which was not feasible for myself or others to provide.”
Strand said Jordan obtained her stylist license in April 2022 and worked on clients for about three months before taking her medical and parental leave, but was not yet operating as an independent stylist.
“Any services that she provided to clients after she was licensed was under supervision due to her lack of experience with styling hair,” Strand said of Jordan. The salon owner said she has no set policy for training inexperienced or new stylists, but that she felt Jordan still needed some level of training after earning her stylist license.
“Her service level still needed improvement,” Strand said. ” This was discussed before she took leave and while on leave.”
Strand said she had considered Jordan’s request to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but decided the schedule “was not compatible” with her own.
“(Jordan) was not an experienced hair stylist, and still required supervision and training, which was not feasible for myself or others to provide,” Strand told The Post-Record. “(Jordan’s) employment with the salon ended because the schedule that she demanded was not tenable and would have had an adverse economic impact on the salon and its stylists. Simply put, ending her employment was a business decision.”