Maloney O'Laughlin PLLC fights for employees throughout Washington, from Seattle to Spokane.

Maloney O'Laughlin PLLC fights for employees throughout Washington, from Seattle to Spokane.

Unweaving the complexities of hair discrimination

On Behalf of | Oct 16, 2023 | Race And National Origin Discrimination

Many businesses have dress codes every employee must follow. Some dress codes specifically detail grooming practices. For example, a dress code may state the length, color and texture of hair and facial hair accepted in the workplace. When employees do not follow grooming practices, they could suffer consequences. 

Hair has a deep cultural background depending on a person’s race and country of origin. Many people express their culture through different hairstyles. Someone’s hair may also be naturally curly or straight, black or blond. These kinds of qualities are often genetic. 

Discrimination is an act of prejudice and bias that wrongfully targets a person’s identity. A dress code that targets an employee’s hair may be a form of discrimination. One bill intends to combat hair discrimination. Here’s what you should know:

What is the CROWN Act?

Employees have many protective rights against discrimination. An employee can’t be wrongfully discriminated against, retaliated against, fired or threatened because of individual characteristics, such as pregnancy, race, color, gender, pregnancy or age. Race and national origin protective rights, however, had not protected from hair discrimination for a long time.

Many states, Washington included, have passed a bill to protect against hair discrimination. The CROWN Act allows employees to choose how to style their hair whether for self-admiration or for cultural appreciation. This bill protects many different kinds of natural hairstyles, such as twists, locks, braids, afros and protective hair coverings. 

Businesses may try to excuse their dress code. However, hair has no impact on an individual’s ability to perform professionally. When cared for properly, natural hair is hygienic. Forcing employees to abide by dress codes is often expensive, time-consuming and harmful. 

Businesses may ignore federal and state laws. As a result, employees may enter hostile work environments. Employees who are victims of racial or national origin discrimination may need to learn about their legal rights.