Jose A. Gonzalez
California senator taking on black hair discrimination at work
We all know that it is against the law in California for employers to discriminate against workers or job applicants on the basis of their race. However, there are more subtle ways that racial minorities can experience discrimination that currently falls through the cracks legally.
One of them is African American workers being punished for the way they style their hair. A new bill in the state Senate called the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act would protect all workers’ right to wear their hair however they want without being subject to arbitrary grooming rules on the job.
Discriminatory ‘race-neutral’ hair rules
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, noted that anti-discrimination laws already protect black workers’ choice to wear an afro – but no other “natural presentation of black hair,” such as braids or dreadlocks. She said that workplace policies regarding hair claim to be race-neutral but actually reflect an “image of professionalism” that favors whites and force black employees to damage their hair to conform.
In one case, a news anchor’s boss ordered her to change her hair “back to the way it was” after she started wearing an afro, which the boss claimed was an “unprofessional” look. After the anchor filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the station fired her.
Suspect you suffered racial discrimination on the job?
Whether you were discriminated against because of your hair, your clothing or another way you express your racial identity at work, you could be entitled to substantial compensation for your lost wages and other costs. A discussion with an employment law attorney can help you determine how to proceed.