On Feb. 1, 2023, Minnesota became at least the 20th state to enact a law that bans discrimination based on hair texture and natural hair styles. Back on Jan. 1, 2023, Illinois’s law barring similar forms of discrimination went into effect. Here in New York, the state and the city have recognized the unacceptable nature of discrimination based on both hair and head coverings. Hair discrimination is an insidious form of mistreatment, as its couches racially or religiously biased misconduct as appropriate under workplace rules barring “unprofessional appearance.” If you have encountered this sort of discrimination at your job, the law in this city and state can potentially protect you. Get in touch with an experienced New York race discrimination lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the options that exist for you.
A race discrimination case from last year is an example of how this type of misconduct can harm a worker. The plaintiff, A.G., was a Black woman of Guyanese ancestry. She also was a legal assistant at the New York office of a multi-state law firm, and someone who allegedly encountered discrimination that attacked her natural hairstyles as being unprofessional in her appearance.
According to the assistant, the employer engaged in several instances of race discrimination, many of which were related to hair. In one instance, an office manager allegedly accused A.G. of attending work with an appearance that was not “polished.” A.G.’s immediate supervisor issued a qualified refutation of that assessment, telling A.G. that “I’m not sure what she means, you dress far better than [a fellow legal assistant who was of Asian ancestry] and I, and your hair is nice, well not today but sometimes!” According to the complaint, the A.G. was wearing her hair in an Afro when the supervisor made the “not [nice] today” comment.