California poised to ban hairstyle discrimination

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 12, 2018: An African-American woman with braided hair and a bald man sit in the plaza of Union Square in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)

This is California, remember. The Golden state is perched to become the first in the nation to ban discrimination based on unique hairstyles, mainly targeting blacks.

The measure, which has passed both chambers of the state legislature, could be signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom as soon as next week.

It’s aimed at schools and workplaces where blacks say they have been pressured to abandon hairstyles traditionally a part of their culture and have been denied jobs and advancement when they did not adopt more Eurocentric styles of personal grooming.

The bill, if signed, would prohibit enforcement of personal grooming policies affecting disproportionately those of color, especially blacks. This includes prohibitions on certain hairstyles, such as braids, twists, Afros, cornrows and dreadlocks.

It reads:

Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.

The bill’s sponsor, LA Democrat  Sen. Holly Mitchell claims that it would encourage schools and businesses to create grooming policies “that will foster inclusion and diversity.”

She said she had heard “far too many reports of black children humiliated and sent home from school because their natural hair was deemed unruly or a distraction to others.”

Mitchell added:

I believe that any law policy or practice that sanctions a job description that immediately excludes me from a profession — not because of my capacity or my capabilities or my experience but because of my hairstyle choice — is long overdue for reform.