New York City Bans Hairstyle Discrimination

According to new enforcement guidelines released by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, it is now considered unlawful discrimination in New York City to target someone because of their hairstyle, including “locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

Although the new guidelines apply equally to everyone, they are specifically designed to counteract policies and practices that restrict “natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people, [which] are often rooted in white standards of appearance and perpetuate racist stereotypes that Black hairstyles are unprofessional.”  The law applies in the workplace, as well as schools, housing, and other public spaces.

This NYC law is relatively unique in that its stated purpose is to prohibit discrimination based on cultural norms typically associated with Black Americans, as opposed to immutable traits or religious practices.  However, federal and state laws already on the books in many places, including Colorado, also could have the same effect depending on the situation.  Some examples of similar conduct that could be prohibited by current federal and Colorado law include: an employee grooming policy that would require an American Indian employee to cut his hair, a Muslim woman to remove her hijab, an Orthodox Jew to cut his beard, or that allows women but not men to maintain long hair.

The complete enforcement guidelines from the New York City Commission on Human Rights are available here.