RANCHO CUCAMONGA (CBSLA.com) — A corrections officer claims he could lose his job because of his dreads.

Mark Williams, who works at the California Institution for Men in Chino, said he faces disciplinary action over a policy that doesn’t allow men to have longer locks.

“People have lost lives. Why are we worried about one particular individual who has his hair long?” he said. “What does that have to do with the ability, my ability to do my job? There are other things we can worry about.”

Williams told CBS2’s Tom Wait that the problem with his dreads was never mentioned in the past.

“It’s not like I just had my hair long yesterday. My hair has been long for years, so why is it an issue now?” he said.

Bill Sessa, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation, said the policy is clear. Men have to have their hair cut above the collar. Women are allowed longer hair, but only if it’s placed in a bun.

Sessa said it’s a practical matter because women typically keep their hair longer, which is why they are exempt from the rule.

In a statement, Sessa said, “The fact is that we have a dress code for the officers for safety reasons. An officer cannot have long hair that goes beyond the shirt collar.”

Sessa said every officer hired knows about the rules and takes an oath to follow the dress code.

“My thing is, if my hair is up, off my collar, wearing this hat like a female or any person with long hair, what does that have to do with my ability to do my job?” Williams said.

Williams is currently on a self-imposed administrative leave.  He said he’s standing his ground and will not cut his hair.

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