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Can someone discriminate against hair?

It can be surprising to find that hair has a history of discrimination. In many outdated workplace dress codes, it is thought that there are appropriate ways to wear your hair – especially when it comes to the natural hair of people of color or traditional styles, like braids and knots.

Many jobs may hold people of color’s natural hair against them with racist, stereotypical biases. This may force many Black individuals to damage their hair with straighteners, heat and other chemicals to fit into their workplace. But, new workplace discrimination rules have changed the views of natural hair. 

Here’s what you should know:

The Crown Act gave protection to many

On July 3rd, 2019, the Crown Act was signed into law as Chapter 58, SB 188, and took effect on January 1st, 2020. This new law intends to reduce discrimination against natural hair or hairstyles – making workplaces more open to diversity. 

If you have curly hair, twists, dreads, braids, cornrows, fades, afros or any culturally associated hairstyle, then you would be protected under the Crown Act.

Workplace discrimination can still happen

New laws don’t change people’s workplace beliefs overnight. You may encounter an employer who still believes it is in their right to control how your hair is styled. 

This could cause employer retaliation and discrimination against you because of the way your wear your hair, your traditional clothing or your cultural beliefs. Employers may try to:

  • Reduce your salary
  • Harass you during and outside of work
  • Reassign your position
  • Reduce your responsibilities
  • Deny a promotion
  • Create negative (and false) performance reviews

If an employer believes they should decide how you should look and behave, then you may need to remind them of your employee rights. 

You may need to know your options if you are facing retaliation, harassment or discrimination at your place of work. It’s always in the best interest of everyone to make workplaces a safer, friendlier environment.


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