Court Awards Blind Barber $100K For Being Fired Because He’s Blind

(Boston, MA,11/04/15) Joel Nixon, a barber since 2008, who recently lost his job due to a degenerative eye disease, poses for the Boston Herald. Wednesday, November 04, 2015. (Staff photo by Chelsea Nixon)

A legally blind barber who honed his craft cutting his siblings’ hair has been awarded $100,000 after a state agency found that he was illegally fired by a shop that didn’t want a sight-impaired scissorsmith on staff. “When it comes to hairstyling, I’m an artist and I take pride in what I do,” said Joel Nixon, a barber who has been cutting men’s hair for years. “When you’re in my chair, I don’t let you out of my chair until they’re satisfied. My vision does not compromise my ability to do my job.”

Nixon, 29, has been diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary condition that affects his peripheral vision.

He has trouble seeing at night, and has been declared legally blind by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. He was working for Tony’s Barber Shop in Norton in 2011, but a year later his boss, Tony Morales, discovered his malady, according to the decision by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. On March 3, 2012, Nixon was working at the shop’s South Easton location when he tripped over a customer’s legs. Later in the day, he tripped over a chair in the waiting room.

“Morales told him to pack up his things and get his wife to take him home,” the MCAD hearing officer wrote.

“(Nixon) understood that his employment was being terminated.” Things fell apart for Nixon after that, he said. He couldn’t find a job nearby, and his wife had a high-risk pregnancy that made it difficult for him to work far from home. He was unemployed for three years, his condo went into foreclosure, and he was forced to apply for food stamps and went to charities for Christmas gifts, he said.

He’s moving his family to a small apartment tomorrow. Nixon also deals with the lingering possibility he may lose his sight forever.  “I could wake up someday and be completely blind, but my goal is to have a nice home with a nice backyard for my son,” Nixon said, fighting back tears. “I’ve never been to Disneyland, and I want to take him. I want to take him before I lose my vision. I’m trying to do the best I can.” MCAD awarded Nixon $75,000 in lost wages and $25,000 for emotional distress in a decision made public yesterday.

Boston Herald.