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In California, hairstyles may be a protected part of racial identity

On Behalf of | Apr 22, 2020 | Firm News, Workplace Discrimination

Both California and the federal government have laws that ban racial discrimination in the workplace. Nevertheless, many workers of color in this state and across the country have experienced workplace discrimination due to something very personal: their hairstyle.

For many black people, the way they wear their hair is more than a fashion choice. It is a vital form of self-expression and a way of celebrating their heritage and celebrating their beauty. But employers dominated by white supervisors, managers and executives often will fail to hire or promote qualified job candidates and employees because they have dreadlocks, braids, an Afro or another hairstyle closely associated with being black.

For many black people, the choice seems to be to sacrifice their hairstyle in a way that their white colleagues are never forced to do, or be treated as second-class employees. But it does not have to be this way, thanks to California’s CROWN Act.

Countering racial discrimination based on hair

The CROWN Act bans employment discrimination based on an employee’s hairstyle. Though California was the first to pass a CROWN Act bill, a national campaign has led to similar laws being enacted in six other states and one county in Maryland. Meanwhile, 20 more states have a CROWN Act bill in consideration or at least have a legislator announce their intention to introduce such a bill.

To those who have not experienced it, hair-based discrimination may sound made up or frivolous. But for people of color, the way they choose to wear their hair should not be an excuse for white managers to discriminate against them or ignore their qualifications and contributions to the company.

If you have experienced racial discrimination in the workplace, you need to know your rights. Speaking to an employment law attorney can help you understand your options for legal action.