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With new law New York employers must allow natural hairstyles

If your company has a policy on hairstyles, you may need to update it. New York businesses can no longer ban natural hairstyles.

Following California, New York has become the second state to pass a law prohibiting discrimination against natural hairstyles. The law hopes to reduce racial discrimination in the workplace, especially towards African-Americans.

Changes to current laws

The new law adds updated definitions of race to existing discrimination laws. The law will now describe race as including “traits historically associated with race” like natural hairstyles. Braids, locks and twists are some examples the law lists as protected hairstyles. The law adds this definition to New York’s Human Rights Law and the Dignity for All Students Act, protecting people in the workplace and in schools.

Embracing cultural norms

African-Americans, especially women, have struggled with meeting workplace expectations for a long time. Many have gone through a process of chemically straightening hair. But more and more choose to defy societal norms by wearing their hair naturally. The new law reflects a desire among African-Americans to embrace more natural hairstyles that fit their hair texture.

Employer expectations

Some employers may see these hairstyles as unprofessional. Beauty brand Dove did a study on natural hairstyles. They found that employers will send African-American women home more often because of their hairstyles. African-American women are also 80% more likely to change their hairstyle to meet the norms of their workplace.

With the new law in place, African-Americans in New York can wear their hair naturally without fear of violating workplace policies.

Updating workplace policies

The governor signed the law in July 2019. It takes effect immediately.

If you have a workplace policy against natural hairstyles, you will need to update it right away. Any policy should reflect the right of your employees to wear natural hairstyles.

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