Hairstyles are more than just personal preference. For some workers, they are part of their cultural and racial identity. So, it is distressing for a person to be discriminated against in the workplace based solely on their hairstyle or texture.
Is this a significant issue in the United States? The 2023 Crown Workplace Research Study suggests that racial discrimination in the workplace based on hair is a widespread problem that significantly impacts Black women’s ability to find employment and advance in their jobs.
The 2023 Crown Workplace Research Study
The study reports that Black women with coily/textured hair are twice as likely to be subjected to microaggressions at work compared to Black women who wear their hair straight.
The study also reports that more than two-fifths of Black women between the ages of 25 and 34 have been asked to leave work and go home due to their hair.
Finally, the study reports that one-quarter of Black women believe they were not offered a job interview due to their hair. This number rises to one-third for Black women under age 34.
Racial discrimination in the workplace based on hair
Employers are not permitted under federal or state law to discriminate against workers based on that worker’s race. Does race include hairstyle?
Federal law does not specifically protect workers against race-based hair discrimination. This is true, even if the style of hair is an inherited part of the worker’s racial identity.
However, California law does protect workers against race-based hair discrimination. California enacted the CROWN Act several years ago and was the first state to do so. Under California’s CROWN Act, the definition of “race” as used in the state Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) was expanded to include hair texture and protective hairstyles.
Time will tell if federal law will be amended to include hair and hairstyle within the category of race with regards to employment discrimination.