Phillips & Associates

Hairstyle Discrimination

Employment Lawyers Protecting the Rights of New York City Workers

New York City has enacted guidelines stating that discrimination against people based on their hair or hairstyle on the job, in schools, or in public spaces will be considered race discrimination. Although the law applies to everybody in New York City, the main goal of the guidelines is to provide a remedy for the disparate treatment of black people. New York City workers can have their hair natural, uncut, untrimmed, and treated or untreated, and they can wear their hair in styles such as Bantu knots, fades, Afros, braids, twists, cornrows, and locs. If you were treated differently because of your hairstyle, you should consult the New York City hairstyle discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates.

New Guidelines on Hairstyle Discrimination

New York City recently released novel guidelines about what is deemed hairstyle discrimination. The guidelines pertain to the existing New York City Human Rights Law, which is already one of the most protective civil rights laws in the country. They state that New Yorkers have a right to keep up natural hair or hairstyles that are closely related to their ethnic, racial, or cultural identities. New York City Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Carmelyn P. Malalis tweeted that hair is part of people and that race discrimination based on hair is illegal once the guidelines had been released.

The guidelines allow people to obtain remedies for harassment or an employer’s punitive conduct in workplaces, schools, and public spaces due to the style or texture of their hair. However, employers can still require employees to wear ties, hair nets, or other hair-related items in order to preserve health and safety.

The new guidelines were written because of the prevalence of racist stereotypes that black hairstyles are not professional. The guidance explicitly provides warnings to employers that they cannot ban hairstyles associated with black people, such as cornrows, do-rags, dreadlocks, or Afros. They cannot tell their black workers to straighten their hair or punish them for not straightening their hair. A hairstyle discrimination attorney can advise New York City employees on how to take legal action if this happens to them.

Recent Events Related to Hair Discrimination

Issues related to hair discrimination have surfaced around the country. Last December, a white referee told a black teen wrestler to cut his dreadlocks prior to a match or forfeit the match. This triggered a public outcry and criticism from the governor of the state, as well as an Olympic wrestler. However, the United States Supreme Court decided not to hear a case last year in which a black Southern woman alleged that she had lost a job offer for not cutting her dreadlocks. The federal appellate court had taken the employer’s side on the ground that federal law protects people based on characteristics that they cannot change, rather than their cultural practices. However, the New York City Human Rights Law is different from the federal anti-discrimination law.

The Chairwoman noted that there was nothing to prevent New York City from prohibiting policies that forbid natural hair or hairstyles that are closely related to black people. Our New York City hairstyle discrimination attorneys recognize that the law tries to stop the perpetuation of racist stereotypes that say that black hairstyles are improper or unprofessional.

Penalties and Remedies for Discrimination

The New York City Human Rights Law is the local law prohibiting race discrimination. The guidelines are based on the notion that hair is inherent to race and is often closely related to racial, ethnic, or cultural identities. Under the guidelines, the New York City Human Rights Commission can impose penalties of up to $250,000 on defendants that violate the guidelines. The Commission can require companies to rehire applicants and change their internal policies in connection with hairstyles. There are no caps on damages awarded in a lawsuit based on workplace race discrimination or hairstyle discrimination.

Consult an Experienced Race Discrimination Attorney

It is stressful to face racial discrimination in the workplace. Our skillful and experienced trial lawyers may be able to help you recover damages from employers that have perpetrated hairstyle discrimination against you. Call Phillips & Associates at (212) 248-7431 or contact us through our online form to set up a free consultation with a hairstyle discrimination lawyer in New York City. We handle employment litigation in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

PHILLIPS & ASSOCIATES
45 Broadway, #620,
New York NY, 10006
Tel: 212-248-7431
Fax: 212-901-2107

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