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New York City Bans Discrimination Based On Hairstyle

by Anne Moratto | February 28, 2019

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) issued new legal enforcement guidance regarding discrimination on the basis of natural hair and hairstyles. Bans or restrictions on natural hair or hairstyles, the guidance states, “exacerbate anti-Black bias in employment, at school, while playing sports, and in other areas of daily living. The NYCHRL protects the rights of New Yorkers 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 natural hair, 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.”

Hair discrimination now carries a hefty fine of $250,000 for any policies that restrict natural hairstyles.

Examples of discrimination cited in the guidance include:

  • A private school has a policy prohibiting locs or braids.
  • A public school athletic association prohibits a Black student athlete with locs from participating in an athletic competition because his hair is below his shoulders but allows white student-athletes with long hair to tie their hair up.
  • A charter school informs a Black student that she must change her Afro because it is a “distraction” in the classroom.
  • A children’s dance company requires girls to remove their braids, alter their Afro, and only wear a “smooth bun” to participate in classes.
  • A nightclub tells a patron she is not welcome because her natural hairstyle does not meet their dress code.

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