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Is Hair Discrimination Legal?

Hair has a cultural history that has shaped people for centuries. When people aren’t able to express their culture, they may feel they are being racially or culturally targeted. This can cause conflict at workplaces that require dress codes – that include how an employee’s hair should be kept.

What can you do if someone targets you because of your hair? Is your cultural identity protected at your workplace? Are your employee rights violated if you’re discriminated against because of your natural hair? Here’s what you should know:

People don’t always realize that other people are born with different qualities of natural hair, including (but not limited to) curls, waves and straight hair. In many cases, people may also alter their hair to lay differently than how it naturally grows. 

Different people will fashion their hair into afros, dreads, braids, pigtails, fades, lineups, twists or other styles depending on their culture. African Americans, people of color and various ethnicities dedicate time to appreciate their culture through their hair – which ends up giving people reason to discriminate against them. 

For the longest time, employees had no protection against hair-related discrimination at their place of work. This has allowed racist and xenophobic employers to enforce hair in their dress code policies – possibly as a means to exclude minorities from their business.

Today, employees’ are protected by the Crown Act, signed in California on July 3rd, 2019. This policy protects an employee’s natural hair texture and cultural hairstyle from discrimination at work. But, just because a worker’s rights are extended doesn’t mean everyone follows the same rules (even if they are violating state legislation).

Racial discrimination can cause someone to lose a job opportunity or lead to workplace retaliation and harassment. If you’ve become the focus of workplace discrimination, then you may need to know your options.

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