Employees have a reasonable expectation that they will be treated fairly by their employers. They expect that they will be judged primarily on their ability to fulfill their job descriptions. History has shown that, sadly, this is not always the case. Some employees face judgment pertaining to their race, sex, or religious beliefs. A new California Senate bill seeks to protect one other part of a person's life from workplace discrimination – the hairstyle that employees choose.
Advocates of the bill, including Senator Holly J. Mitchell, who sponsored it, say that some employees face discrimination due to their hairstyles. People of color often wear their hair in ways that protect it, since African-American hair is often a very different texture from Caucasian hair. Some employers have been accused of discrimination against people of color who wear their hair in braids, locs or twists.
The bill would prevent employers from having workplace standards for hairstyles that could be deemed "race neutral" grooming. Federal laws already protect Afro hairstyles, but do not mention other types of commonly-worn hairstyles by people of color. If the bill is passed, it will be included as part of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, which already protects a person from discrimination based on race, sex, age or religious beliefs.
It is important that employees from all backgrounds feel safe and accepted in their workplace. Workplace discrimination hurts people and, in the long run, any company that tolerates it. Those who believes they may have experienced discrimination in the workplace for any reason may find it helpful to speak with an experienced employment law attorney. It can be the first step in making things right.