Earlier this year, New York became the second state in the U.S. to ban discrimination based on natural hairstyles.
The law amends both the state’s Human Right’s Law and the Dignity for All Students Act to update the definition of race to include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
The law is intended to prohibit dress codes or appearance policies that target people of color, particularly black people, by banning traditional styles like cornrows, braids, Bantu knots, twists, fades, afros and dreadlocks or locs.
Earlier this year, the NYC Commission on Human Rights issued a legal enforcement guidance on discrimination of natural hairstyles that states, “while an employer can impose requirements around maintaining a work-appropriate appearance, they cannot enforce such policies in a discriminatory manner and/or target specific hair textures or hairstyles. Therefore, a grooming policy to maintain a ‘neat and orderly’ appearance that prohibits locs or cornrows is discriminatory against black people because it presumes that these hairstyles, which are commonly associated with Black people, are inherently messy or disorderly.”
California was the first state to ban discrimination of natural hairstyles. The CROWN – Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair – Act was signed into law in July. A similar measure has also been introduced in New Jersey.
Employers, especially those in New York in California, should review their dress and appearance policies to ensure they are in compliance.
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