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Are You Discriminating Employees Based on Hair Style?

Are You Discriminating Employees Based on Hair Style? Image

By Olivia Wann, JD

Is your HR policy discriminating employees based on hair style and hair texture? Years ago, it was common for HR policies to include a provision prohibiting extreme hairstyles. Perceived as “extreme” hairstyles included afros, dreadlocks, cornrows, braids and twists.  

Black women reported such bias and brought claims for discrimination and harassment against employers based on race.  The State of New York became the second state to pass its own CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair). The CROWN Act prevents enforcement of grooming policies that have a negative impact on people of color.   

We encourage dental practices to review their HR policies and ensure that grooming policies do not trigger discrimination claims based on hairstyles.   

We interviewed our very own Nyaradzo Dzimba who works remotely from Zimbabwe, Africa, regarding hairstyles. She shared, "There is an unfortunate stigma against individuals who choose to wear protective (black) hairstyles in the workspace, particularly the corporate space. Protective hairstyles are considered unprofessional, distracting, unpolished, and unkempt which in turn is discrimination. The world is filled with diverse people, all of whom should not feel inferior or be subject to discrimination based on the hairstyle they wear. The hairstyles we choose to put on do not equate to the quality of our work. Black hair/protective hair is professional." She also pointed attention to a Dove study you can read here: https://www.dove.com/uk/stories/about-dove/untangling-hair-discrimination.html

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