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New California law bans hairstyle discrimination in workplace

Many African-Americans may feel that their workplace discriminates against their natural hairstyles. A new California law addresses that discrimination.

California has become the first state to protect natural hairstyles of African-Americans. The new law bans discrimination in the workplace and school based on hairstyle. Called the Crown Act, the law adds language to existing discrimination laws and defines hairstyle as part of racial identity. This means any employer that has a policy against natural hairstyles violates discrimination laws based on race.

New public awareness

Many African-Americans have struggled with this discrimination for years. But a high school wrestler in New Jersey brought attention to the public last December. A referee at a wrestling tournament told the African-American high schooler that he would have to forfeit his match if he didn’t cut off his dreadlocks.

This spurred lawmakers in California and many other states to draft a bill outlawing this type of discrimination.

Discriminations against natural hairstyles

The law includes hairstyles such as afros, braids, locks and twists as examples of natural hair. Many employers have policies banning these hairstyles. This affects African-Americans, especially women, who must chemically straighten or cut off their hair to comply. Many have complained of being fired or passed over for promotion because of their hair. Others struggled to find a job at all.

The new law now recognizes this as race discrimination. California lawmakers agreed that requiring African-Americans to go through these treatments, which can often be painful and dangerous, violates their civil rights.

The Crown Act takes effect on January 1, 2020.

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