Numerous forms of harassment permeated workplaces around California. From sexual harassment to discrimination based on disabilities, many variations have protections. However, there are just as many factors that do not have legal protections. California recently aimed to expand workers’ rights by outlawing employers’ abilities to discriminate based on a person’s hairstyle.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed the Crown Act into law on July 3rd, 2019. This law makes it illegal to discriminate against workers based on hairstyles, such as braids, afros, locks, and twists. Holly Mitchell introduced the legislation based on the belief that Black employees should be able to wear their hair in a manner fitting its natural form, so they do not have to conform to Eurocentric hairstyles. The new law officially goes into effect on January 1st, 2020. For many, the bill is long overdue.
Numerous reports of Black employees receiving punishments for their hair
Many have long believed that workplace dress codes forbidding afros and braids have been discriminatory against Black workers. Such dress codes can deter some people from applying for certain jobs. The hope is that with this bill, work and school environments will foster environments of inclusivity and acceptance. One case that made national headlines occurred when a Black high school wrestler had to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match. Many thought it was unfair for a young man to have to choose between competing and retaining his identity.
The same type of bill could spread very soon
Other states have considered similar legislation. New York City and New Jersey have proposed legislation that aims to protect people’s hairstyles. There are already federal and state protections for religious hairstyles and certain hair coverings, so these laws are in that same vein. Hopefully, the United States will see a cultural change in how employers view different types of hairstyles.