New York City to Ban Discrimination Based on Hair

On Monday February 18, 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released legal guidance on our protections and enforcement actions against racial discrimination on the basis natural hair and hairstyles. These guidelines will now consider the targeting of people based on their hairstyle at work, school, or in public places racial discrimination.

This law will prohibit discrimination in the workplace, and in most circumstances covers employers with four or more employees. Examples of prohibited policies include (Per Guidance):

  • A grooming policy that prohibits twists, locs, braids, cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, or fades which are commonly associated with black people.

  • A grooming policy requiring employees to alter the state of their hair to conform to the company’s appearance standards, including having to straighten or relax hair.

  • A grooming policy banning hair that extends a certain number of inches from the scalp, thereby limiting Afros.

These new guidelines will give legal resource to those who have been harassed, threatened, punished, demoted, or terminated because of their hairstyle. The city commission will now have the power to levy penalties of up to $250,000 on those who have violated the guidelines, and there will be no cap on the damages.

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