What Is Hair Discrimination? | Bantle & Levy



What Is Hair Discrimination?

Many people feel pressured to look a certain way in the workplace. Policies like those that require employees to follow certain dress codes are common in workplaces in all industries. However, in some cases, requiring employees to present themselves a certain way could be discriminatory. This is especially true when it comes to the way employees choose to wear their hair. Treating employees unfairly due to their hair or the hairstyles they wear isn’t only hurtful, it can be considered hair discrimination.

What exactly is hair discrimination and is it illegal? Learn more about this type of discrimination and what you can do to get help.

What is Hair Discrimination?

Hair texture can vary greatly from person to person. However, a person’s hair texture can also be closely tied to their race or ethnic background. Because of this, treating an employee differently due to their hair texture or hairstyle could be a way of discriminating against or harassing them due to their race. Various studies show that Black women most commonly face hair discrimination in the workplace and face pressure to wear their hair a certain way. Employees may feel unwelcome in the workplace or have fewer opportunities if they choose to wear their hair naturally or use protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks, or twists.

Is Hair Discrimination Illegal?

In addition to implementing dress codes, some employers may also have grooming policies in place. Policies like this often require employees to look neat, clean, and professional in the workplace. However, these requirements can be rooted in racism and imply that hairstyles associated with a certain race are less professional. These policies may seem neutral but discriminate against certain employees, even if this wasn’t the intention. Grooming policies may intend to be applicable to all employees but negatively impact certain protected classes. Because of this, some grooming policies could be considered discriminatory.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discriminating against employees for their race is prohibited. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, race discrimination includes discrimination based on personal characteristics associated with race, such as hair texture, skin color, or certain facial features.

Employees in New York City also have more protections against hair discrimination. New York passed the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act in 2019. The CROWN Act prohibits schools and employers from discriminating against a person’s hair texture or hairstyle. This includes discriminatory grooming policies. The New York City Human Rights Law also protects employees’ rights to wear natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.

Contact Bantle & Levy If You’ve Faced Discrimination

Employees can face racial discrimination in many different ways, including for their hair texture or style. If you’re being treated unfairly based on your race or membership in another protected class, something needs to be done. Combating employment discrimination isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. At Bantle & Levy, we stand up for New York City employees and their rights.

Contact us today if you’re being discriminated against at work.

Bantle & Levy
Bantle & Levy

Lee Bantle is a partner at Bantle & Levy LLP. He has extensive legal expertise, admitted to the bars of the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals. With a distinguished academic background and clerkship experience, he has been recognized as a top-rated civil rights attorney and esteemed lawyer. In addition to his successful career, he has actively contributed to various legal organizations and serves as a faculty member for NYU's Annual Workshop on Employment Law for Federal Judges.


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