Workplace Rights

Weekly (2/14/22)

Topic of the Week  Hair Discrimination at Work

Minorities have suffered hair discrimination for years with studies showing that Black women have been disproportionately impacted the most. When employers have policies banning employees from wearing hairstyles like locs and braids that are natural to Black people or folks with textured hair, it's not just hair discrimination. It's race-based because it discriminates against a specific group of individuals. This type of discrimination at work is unacceptable and it's important to know how to spot unjust policies. 

Why do some companies have hair and grooming policies?

Traditionally, similar to other policies like dress code and tattoo and piercing regulations, employers have hair policies to ensure that their employees are maintaining the clean and professional presentation that the company wants to display to its customers. The problem arises when these policies don’t equally affect all employees.

What laws protect me from hair discrimination?

A law known as the CROWN Act prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture. C.R.O.W.N. stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. Although all states have not adopted this law, enforcement of the CROWN Act will require employers and schools to examine their seemingly neutral hair and grooming policies and their unequal effect on Black Americans and other minorities.

Does an employer requiring "neat hairstyles" violate hair discrimination laws?

It depends. An employer requiring a “work appropriate appearance” is acceptable, but policies that ban, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people are generally in violation of the anti-discrimination laws. Also, seemingly neutral grooming policies may also violate city law if an employer disproportionately enforces the policy against black employees. 

The answer to this question seems to depend on your employer’s definition of “neat” and your employer’s enforcement of that policy on employees. If “neat” does not include natural hair styles that are specific to a particular race or class of persons, then the policy is likely to disproportionately affect one group over the other and, as a result, violate anti-discrimination laws.

Thought of the Week

"It’s not just about hair. It’s about choice and about people being empowered to be who they are culturally in the workplace"

–Sen. Holly J. Mitchell

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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    from NAACP

    Did you know:

    • Black women are disproportionately impacted by hair discrimation
    • 80% of Black women feel that they must change their hair to fit in at work
    • Hair discrimation is often race discrimination, as it typically impacts a specific group of individuals with textured hair

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