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Why hairstyle requirements can be a form of racial discrimination

On Behalf of | Dec 22, 2020 | Workplace Discrimination |

Many businesses have dress codes that limit what staff members in various positions can wear on the job. A good staff dress code prevents employee conflict and helps present a positive image of the company and its workforce to consumers.

Unfortunately, some of the rules commonly used in employee dress codes lead to discrimination. Specifically, rules that only apply to protected populations, like rules that penalize people for their natural hair texture and color, may hold people back from professional advancement in their career.

The problem with so-called ‘professional’ hairstyle requirements

For those born with naturally kinky or curly hair, achieving a truly straight and professional look may require hundreds of dollars worth of salon services every month and an hour or more of prep work every day. All of that might wind up undone by a sudden rainstorm anyway.

Requiring specific hairstyles or banning styles that people with natural hair wear are practices with deeply racist roots. Companies that restrict natural hairstyles for workers with naturally curly, wavy or kinky hair impose an unfair tax and secondary obligation on people of certain races and ethnicities.

Discrimination regarding your appearance can affect your career

Negative assumptions about your work ethic, education or skill level based solely on your appearance can reduce your career opportunities. Companies should evaluate you based on your performance and education – not racially-based physical characteristics outside of your control.

If you believe that your hair or a similar racial characteristic played a role in not getting a promotion, getting let go from a company or a job offer being rescinded, you may be the victim of racial discrimination in the workplace. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.