Milwaukee’s Common Council placed their stamp of approval on a proposal that would ban employers from discriminating against their workers because of their hairstyles late last month. They did so after reviewing multiple accounts of how African-American females often receive disparate treatment in the workplace due to how they wear their hair.
Is Milwaukee’s hair discrimination a first of its kind?
The Milwaukee council’s petition isn’t unique. Wisconsin state lawmakers first unsuccessfully pushed for the institution of a discrimination ban in 2019. Six states, including Virginia, New York, California, Washington, Colorado and New Jersey, currently have similar hair discrimination laws on the books to the new Milwaukee city code. Montgomery County in Maryland also has laws prohibiting hair discrimination.
How big of an issue is hair discrimination?
Data compiled by the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Coalition shows that employers are 3.4 times more apt to label an African-American female worker as unprofessional than others merely due to their hairstyle. The coalition determined that these same workers are 1.5 times more prone to have their employers ask them to return home to redo their hairstyle than other female employees.
One of the Milwaukee code sponsors shed light on what motivated her to fight for the proposal’s approval. She pointed out that a person’s hair is a type of creative expression and has a political, cultural and religious significance for them. She noted that employers shouldn’t discriminate against workers for their hairstyle when it’s so much a part of who they are.
What to do if your employer discriminated against you
Supporters of the proposed city ordinance argue that the Black Lives Matter movement has been instrumental in agitating lawmakers toward passing legislation such as this workplace hair discrimination ban. They note that there’s still a lot more that lawmakers can do to protect the rights of African Americans in other aspects of society than just in the workplace, though.
Holding individuals accountable for their discriminatory actions is the first step to effectuating change. A workplace discrimination attorney will want to know more about the disparate treatment you were subjected to on the job before advising you of your right to file a lawsuit under local, state or federal laws.