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Understanding New York City's new hair discrimination guidelines

Employee discrimination can come in multiple forms that the general populace isn't aware about for a long time. More employers get away with their unfair business practices the longer the public doesn't know about the issue at hand. These are why lawsuits and newer laws are important as they can influence an employer's actions and make more people realize how fair workplaces should operate.

Earlier this month, the NYC Commission on Human Rights announced that the city had new guidelines regarding hair discrimination. These new regulations allow for more freedom in the workplace for employees to express themselves with their hairstyles without potentially losing their job in the process.

Who does it protect?

This ban aims to protect everyone with various hairstyles from hair discrimination in the workplace. However, the NYC Commission on Human Rights specifically highlighted black workers since they have often had the most complaints regarding their natural hair from their employers. Some of the more frequent controversial hairstyles includes afros, cornrows, braids or keeping it in an untrimmed state.

The most common locations where hair discrimination occurs is either at work or at school. These new guidelines enforce employers and teachers to avoid targeting people with certain hairstyles or having grooming policies in place. If they are found violating this new policy, they could find themselves paying a fine for up to $250,000.

Many New Yorkers have complained in the past about their employers telling them their hair is ruining the company's image or is a distraction to all the people around them. Shortly after these new laws were announced, a group of former salon workers in the upper east side filed complaints against their employer for having a strict hair and style code for certain employees.

Are there any limitations?

The NYC Commission on Human Rights is aware that some workplaces do have safety hazards for an employee's hair. The worker might be working with fast and tough machines that could pull their long hair or operate in a restaurant and risk getting their hair in a customer's food. The city requires these employers to try to find a way to keep their hair safe without banning a hairstyle entirely. Some of these alternative methods include wearing:

· A hair net

· A hair tie

· A hat

· A helmet

· Other job-specific head coverings and safety equipment

With how new these guidelines are, some employers who have had hair policies for so long may not adjust to these regulations right away. The fact that this new law exists shows that many workers are unfairly treated, fired or not hired in the first place simply because the employer didn't like how they presented their natural hair. If you or a loved one believe that an employer is being unfair against someone's hairstyle, contact someone with experience in employment law to see how you can file a complaint against them. 

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