Hair Discrimination, Based upon Hair Style, is Illegal

Congress Passed a Bill to Ban Discrimination Based on Hair

Hair discrimination is a huge problem in the United States of America. Policies that prohibit natural hairstyles such as Bantu knots, afros, and dreadlocks, have for a long time been used to justify the removal of Black children from school and Black adults from their employment. With no federal law against hair discrimination, many Black people are left with two choices. Either invest money and time to conform to Eurocentric professionalism aesthetics, or risk facing the consequences. As an employee in New Jersey, you should know that if your employer has policies about how your hair should look while you are at work, you may have a hairstyle discrimination claim. Employees in other states who still have not taken action to protect workers from discrimination based on hair may also soon breathe a sigh of relief after Congress passed a bill to ban discrimination based on hair.

New Jersey’s CROWN Act

New Jersey is one of several states in the United States that have taken action to protect employees from discrimination based on some hairstyles that have a connection to national origin or race. On December 19, 2019, New Jersey passed the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act). According to the CROWN Act, prohibited race discrimination includes discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, such as hair type, hair texture, and protective hairstyles. Other states that prohibit discrimination based on hair include California, New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Nebraska, and Virginia.

House Passes Bill to Ban Discrimination Based on Hair

As of now, there are no nationwide protections against hair discrimination. However, that might change soon after the U.S. House passed a bill on March 18, which, if signed into law, will ban race-based hair discrimination in employment, public accommodations, federally assisted programs, and housing programs. The House of Representatives voted 235-189 on March 18, 2022, to pass the CROWN Act. This Act failed to pass the House in February, but now it is headed to the Senate, where its fate will be decided. However, President Joe Biden stated he will ascend it into law.

If the bill passes the Senate and gets signed into law, it will be a violation of federal civil rights law for any employer to discriminate against an employee based on their hair. Indeed, such discrimination is prohibited under existing federal laws, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act. However, courts sometimes misinterpret the law by their interpretation of race, thus permitting discrimination against employees who wear protective or natural hairstyles.

In a statement, New Jersey’s Democratic Representative, Bonnie Watson Coleman said that discriminating against Black hair is the same as discriminating against Black people. According to Watson, natural black hair is usually deemed “unprofessional.” If the bill is passed, all employees will be able to wear their hair proudly without prejudice or fear.

Contact The Trabosh Law Firm

The Trabosh Law Firm represents New Jersey employees in claims for race discrimination, including discrimination based on hair. To schedule a confidential consultation, please call (856) 874-8840 or contact us online.