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New York workers are protected from hair discrimination

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2024 | Employment Law

Hair discrimination in employment has emerged as a significant issue in recent years. This type of discrimination involves biased treatment based on an individual’s hair texture or style. It disproportionately affects people of color. In recent years, New York has implemented laws to address and prevent such discrimination in the workplace.

In New York, hair discrimination is recognized as a form of racial discrimination. Historically, certain hairstyles and textures, especially those associated with African Americans and other ethnic groups, have been subject to negative biases. These biases have led to unfair treatment in employment settings, including hiring, promotions and workplace policies.

Understanding New York’s legal stance on hair discrimination

New York has taken a proactive approach to combat hair discrimination in employment. In 2019, New York City’s Human Rights Commission released guidelines that classified hair discrimination as a form of racial discrimination under the city’s human rights laws. These guidelines explicitly state that targeting individuals based on their hair or hairstyle at work, school or in public spaces can be considered racial discrimination. The guidelines aim to protect the rights of individuals to maintain natural hair or hairstyles closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identities.

The Crown Act and its implications

Following New York City’s lead, New York State passed the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act in 2019. This state-wide legislation amends the New York State Human Rights Law, extending protection against discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles. It specifically mentions traits historically associated with race, such as braids, locs and twists.

Impact on employers and employees

Implementing these laws has significant implications for employers and employees in New York. Employers must review and potentially revise their dress code and grooming policies to ensure they are not discriminatory. This includes avoiding policies disproportionately affecting people of a particular race or ethnic background in order to minimize their risk of incurring liability for seemingly discriminatory approaches.

For employees, these laws provide an avenue for legal recourse if they face discrimination at work due to their hair texture or style. It empowers individuals to embrace their natural hair without fear of repercussions in their professional lives. Any employee who believes their rights were violated should discuss their situation with an attorney familiar with this act so they can take appropriate action.


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