New York City Hairstyle Discrimination Attorney

hairstyle discrimination

If you’ve experienced discrimination at school, work, or in another public space, you may be entitled to compensation. Does your employer maintain a hair policy that infringes on your religion or your racial or cultural heritage? Employers cannot treat employees differently based on their hairstyles.  At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we focus our entire legal practice on representing clients in employment law issues. 

New York is only the second state to outlaw hairstyle discrimination. New York City employers and schools cannot discriminate against employees based on their hairstyle on the job. The new policy behind the law is to prohibit discriminatory policies that negatively affect people of color at a disproportionate rate. In New York, hairstyle discrimination is considered racial discrimination. The new anti-discrimination guidelines apply to every employee in New York. More specifically, the regulations prohibit discrimination for using Bantu knots, twists, locs, and braids. 

Our experienced lawyers have an in-depth knowledge of New York’s employment regulations. We understand how challenging it is to experience unlawful discrimination in the workplace. That’s why we fight so hard on behalf of our clients. Contact our law firm today to schedule your initial consultation and learn how we can fight for your rights. 

Hairstyle Discrimination at Schools and at Workplaces

The issue of hairstyle discrimination came to a forefront in 2019, when a high school wrestling referee told a wrestler that he had to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit the match. Situations like these spurred New York lawmakers to to make unlawful discrimination based on hairstyles. Prior to lawmakers enacting the new regulation, many schools and employers had policies that restricted people of color from wearing their hair naturally, or in braids, knots, locs, or twists. 

The New Your City Commission on Human Rights has affirmed that any school, work, or public policies that limit, ban, or otherwise restrict hair or hairstyles associated with black Americans violate the anti-discrimination policy of the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

The Prevention of Race Discrimination Based on Hairstyle in New York City 

The New York City Human Rights Law explicitly protects New Yorkers’ rights to wear natural hairstyles that are closely connected to their ethnic, racial, or cultural identities. For New York City residents who are black, this provision gives them the right to wear treated or untreated natural hairstyles including the following:

  • Cornrows
  • Twists
  • Braids
  • Locs
  • Bantu knots
  • Fades
  • Afros
  • An uncut or untrimmed hairstyle

The regulation defines “black people” as those individuals who identify as African American, African, Caribbean, Afro-Latin-x/a/o, or who otherwise have Black or African ancestry. Additionally, “natural hair” generally means hair that is untreated by heat or chemicals and that is of natural texture and/or length. The provision does not just protect natural black hair, however, it also protects hair that is styled and treated and placed into commonly used black hairstyles. 

Does New York City’s New Provision Only Apply to African American Hair?

No, communities who have a cultural or religious connection to uncut hair also enjoy protection by the regulation. For example, Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Native Americans, Nazirites, and Rastafarians may also wear their hair in an untrimmed or uncut state. The list of cultural hairstyles is not exhaustive, instead, it is just a sample of hairstyles most commonly associated with Black individuals, many of whom have faced discrimination based on their hair. 

What Does This New Policy Mean for New Yorkers?

If you are an employee who wears your hair in a natural or cultural hairstyle, you are probably relieved that New York’s new law protects your hairstyle. But what does this new regulation mean on a practical level?

  • Your employer cannot prohibit cultural hairstyles in their employee policies or handbook
  • Your employer cannot fire you for having an afro, dreads, or any other cultural hairstyle
  • Your child’s school cannot force your child to change his or her hairstyle
  • Your child’s school cannot reprimand or suspend your child due to his or her hairstyle
  • Your employer cannot refuse to give you a well-earned promotion due to hairstyle
  • A place of business such as a restaurant or bar cannot deny you due to hairstyle
  • You will be protected if you complain about discrimination and your employer retaliates

Sexual Harassment and Hairstyle Discrimination

Sometimes, comments made by employers and co-workers that address black or other cultural hairstyles are sexual in nature. When the statements rise to the level of sexual harassment, you may have a valid legal claim for compensation based on federal and state anti-harassment laws. Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual conduct directed at one employee by another. 

The harassment must be unwelcome, and severe or pervasive. Unfortunately, some New Yorkers experience unwelcome, severe harassment about their natural black hair that makes doing their jobs nearly unbearable. If you’ve been the victim of sexual harassment-related to your hair, contact our law firm today to discuss the possibility of taking legal action. 

Contact our Experienced Hairstyle Discrimination Lawyers Today 

New York law makes it illegal for employers, school administrators, and public places such as restaurants and bars to discriminate against you based on your hairstyle. At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we understand how stressful it is to face hairstyle discrimination in the workplace. You should not be penalized based on your choice to wear natural or cultural hairstyles. If you or a loved one have faced reprimands or other adverse actions based on your hairstyle, you may be entitled to compensation. 

At Lipsky Lowe LLP, we have extensive experience and knowledge of New York anti-discrimination laws. We will help you decide whether you have a claim against the employer or school official who engaged in hairstyle discrimination against you or your loved one. Contact our New York City employment law firm today to set up your initial consultation with a hairstyle discrimination lawyer. Our employment law firm handles anti-discrimination litigation throughout New York City.