Legally Blind Boston Barber Awarded $100K for Wrongful Termination

By January 22, 2016 Barber industry, News

Legally Blind Boston Barber Awarded $100K for Wrongful Termination

11/09/2015 AT 12:15 PM EST

Joel Nixon lives with a hereditary condition called retinitis pigments. It primarily affects his peripheral vision, and he has trouble seeing at night to the point where he’s been declared legally blind by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.

Growing up, Nixon learned how to cut his siblings’ hair after being taught by his mother. Eventually, he became a barber, but since Nixon’s condition is degenerative, he lives with the possibility that he could completely lose his sight one day.

“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 told Boston Herald. “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.”

One thing Nixon maintains is that his condition doesn’t get in the way of cutting hair.

“My vision does not compromise my ability to do my job,” he said.

The 29-year-old’s boss disagreed. In 2012, after a year of working at Tony’s Barber Shop, Nixon was dismissed after tripping twice at the shop over the course of a day.

It was the start of a rough period for Nixon. Because of his wife’s high-risk pregnancy, he couldn’t look for work too far from home, and he was unemployed for four years. His condo went into foreclosure, and he applied for food stamps and charities to help him get Christmas gifts for his family.

But Nixon finally got a win last week when he was awarded $100,000 by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination for wrongful termination, in a decision made public Friday.

Tony Morales, the barber shop’s owner, contests Nixon’s story and claims Nixon, who was an independent contractor with the shop, was operating without a barber’s license, and “couldn’t carry his weight” at the shop, according to the Herald. “It’s sad that people like Joel try to take advantage of their situation and create false accusations,” he added.

Chuck Russian, co-director of the Massachusetts School of Barbering, called Nixon “a nice kid” when recalling Nixon’s time at the school to the Herald. “We were a little concerned when he said he was legally blind, but he did the work, passed the course and passed the state board exam.”

“I have a following,” Nixon, who called cutting hair his “life’s calling,” said. “My clients call me the ‘Blind Barber.’ “

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