The United States is a country that embraces people from all different cultures. For some, hairstyle is an important trait and employers should be respectful of this attribute. In New York, failing to respect these is a form of discrimination.
In New York, discrimination based on hairstyles is illegal. A bill, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2019, amended the Human Rights Law in the state to include natural hairstyles.
What types of hairstyles are protected?
The law doesn’t protect outlandish hairstyles unless they have a cultural basis. Hair traits that are associated with race are protected. This includes things like Bantu knots, dreadlocks, braids and others.
Employers can’t force employees to cut off cultural hairstyles or change them simply for appearance’s sake. This includes protections during the hiring process. Employers can, however, require employees to make modifications for safety concerns, like requiring an employee with long braids and dreadlocks, to place it in a tie if working around hazardous machinery or food preparations.
Employees with more questions about specific hairstyles or workplace environments are encouraged to speak to an attorney in the area who can offer greater guidance on the law.