The Law Office of Richard Vaznaugh

Experts in Workplace Rights for Bay Area Workers

The Law Office of Richard Vaznaugh
505 Sansome Street
Suite 850
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (415) 593-0076
Fax: (415) 653-8935

Vaznaugh Weekly

Topic of the Week  Hair and Grooming Discrimination

A recent study found that African American women face the highest instances of hair discrimination and are more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair. The study also uncovered that 80 percent of African American women felt they needed to switch their hairstyle to align with more conservative standards in order to fit in at work. Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about hairi discrimination in the workplace.

1. Does a potential employer requiring “neat hairstyles” violate hair discrimination laws?

It depends. An employer requiring a “work appropriate appearance” is acceptable, but policies that ban, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people are generally in violation of the anti-discrimination laws. Also, seemingly neutral grooming policies may also violate city law if an employer disproportionately enforces the policy against black employees. 

The answer to this question seems to depend on your employer’s definition of “neat” and your employer’s enforcement of that policy on employees. If “neat” does not include natural hair styles that are specific to a particular race or class of persons, then the policy is likely to disproportionately affect one group over the other and, as a result, violate anti-discrimination laws. 

2. Is hair discrimination race discrimination?

In most cases, yes. Minorities have suffered hair discrimination for years. A recent study found that African American women face the highest instances of hair discrimination: 

  • A Black woman is 80% more likely to change her natural hair to meet social norms or expectations at work
  • Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home or know of a Black woman sent home from the workplace because of her hair

A recent study found that African American women face the highest instances of hair discrimination and are more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair. The study also uncovered that 80 percent of African American women felt they needed to switch their hairstyle to align with more conservative standards in order to fit in at work. Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about hairi discrimination in the workplace.Black women are unfairly impacted by societal norms and corporate grooming policies, creating distractions that impact our whole society. Black women report being reprimanded for violating grooming policies at a rate significantly higher than White women. As of February 2020, hair discrimination is race discrimination in three states: California, New York, and New Jersey. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, does prohibit employers from enacting neutral policies that exclude a protected class of employees. When employers have policies banning employees from wearing certain hairstyles to work such as locs, braids, bantu knots, that are natural to black people, it's not just hair discrimination. It is race-based hair discrimination because these rules discriminate against people of specific race because that natural hairstyles are traditionally associated with black. 

However, Hair and grooming discrimination could also result in other types of discrimination. For example, Rastafarians and Sikhs also allow their hair to grow naturally, so a grooming policy that prohibits long hair could discriminate against certain religions. Additionally, requiring employees to shave may aggravate skin conditions, resulting in disability discrimination. We may still find ourselves, however, at the door of race-based discrimination, if the skin condition caused by grooming, mostly affects black people.

Thought of the Week

"Justice is never given; it is exacted and the struggle must be continuous for freedom is never a final fact, but a continuing evolving process to higher and higher levels of human, social, economic, political and religious relationship."

–Phillip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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    from Economic Policy Institute

    A study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that “unions help raise the wages of women and black and Hispanic workers – whose wages have historically lagged behind those of white men … Black and Hispanic workers get a larger boost from unionization than their white counterparts”

    • Black union workers are “13.1 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and 15.4 percentage points more likely to have employer-sponsored retirement plans”.
    • And the results are more staggering for black union workers who haven’t completed high school: black union workers in this category benefit from a “wage advantage of 19.6% over their non-union peers, and are 23.4 percentage points and 25.2 percentage points more likely to have health insurance and a retirement plan, respectively”.
    • For many black Americans, unions have been life-changing ladders to the middle class.

     

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