California recently passed a bill that prevents employers and schools from discriminating against an individual based on their natural hair type, texture or style. Hair styles tend to be closely tied to race. Therefore, discriminating against a certain hair type indirectly discriminates against a particular race of people. This bill aims to end racial discrimination that has been cloaked under the language of dress codes.
The bill is called the Crown Act which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair.” Similar bills have been introduced in New Jersey and New York. The New York bill passed in February and applies to workplaces, schools and public accommodations.
Minorities have been criticized for too long
Minority employees, especially those of African descent, have suffered criticism in the workplace and in schools based on their natural hair texture and styles. Labeled as “unprofessional,” “unruly,” “distracting” and other derogatory terms, these individuals were insulted for their natural hair. This has included everything from afros to dreadlocks, weaves and braids.
A step in the right direction
Now, persons of all races can wear their hair in a natural state free from discrimination. Employee dress and grooming codes will need to take this into consideration, and allow for wider forms of self-expression.
However, the Crown Act’s effects are limited to the state of California. Minorities in other states across the country may still experience racial discrimination based on their hairstyles.
What can employees do if they face discrimination?
If an employer or co-worker inappropriately comments on a natural hairstyle, or claims that it is against the company dress code, minority employees should feel empowered to speak up. Supported by the Crown Act, employees can take several actions:
- Tell the employer that they have a right to wear their hair in its natural state
- Speak to a manager about the incident
- Submit an official complaint with Human Resources
Minority employees have an opportunity to redefine “professional” style. We are moving away from just accepting one look as “professional.” All hereditary backgrounds and styles are being given equal respect and consideration.