NYC Bans Hair Discrimination

The New York City Commission on Human Rights placed a ban on hair discrimination within the workplace, schools and other areas of living on Feb. 28.

The law directly promises to protect the rights of New Yorkers who choose to “maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities. For Black people, this includes the right to maintain “treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

When companies create grooming policies and dress codes for their employees, members of the Black community are often discriminated against because of their natural hairstyles. Natural hair gets deemed as unprofessional, unkept or improper. Employees have lost their jobs due to their choice to wear their natural hair in the workplace. Students have experienced suspension, expulsion, and exclusion from school events after choosing to wear their natural hairstyles.

This issue goes deeper than just disliking a hairstyle. Black hair has historically been viewed as unprofessional due to eurocentric beauty standards that privilege straight hair and the white people who set get to standards of professionalism. Brittany Noble, a former news anchor at WJTV in Jackson, Mississippi was fired for wearing her natural hair in January 2019. Noble said, “After having my son, I asked my news director if I could stop straightening my hair.” Noble received permission to wear her natural hair, but shortly after it was retracted. According to Ebony, Noble’s news director said her natural hair was unprofessional and the equivalent to him throwing on a baseball cap to go to the grocery store. “Mississippi viewers needed to see a beauty queen,” he said.

According to the New York City Commission on Human Rights, “grooming or appearance policies that ban, limit, or otherwise restrict natural hair or hairstyles associated with Black people generally violate the NYCHRL’s (New York City Human Rights Law) anti-discrimination provisions.”

Although other states have not directly stated that they will implement the same law, there is progress being made to address issues targeting Black hair within institutions. When The Horizon Science Academy in Ohio attempted to ban afros, there was outrage. The school’s advisory board told the Huffington Post it wasn't about Black hair. “We want to maintain a certain type of college prep culture here, and we just want the young men to be well groomed,” the board said.

New York City has made a step towards fighting against Eurocentric beauty standards and upholding inclusivity. Many hope this leads to other cities to follow in its footsteps.