Hair-related discrimination violates California law

| May 28, 2020 | Employment Discrimination |

For business leaders, providing a consistent and welcoming environment is often an effective way to win over new customers and keep existing ones. While there is nothing inherently wrong with setting employee grooming standards, focusing on hairstyles may run afoul of California’s antidiscrimination laws. Employees in California should be able to perform their job duties without worrying about discrimination.

The Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act took effect on Jan. 1, 2020. This new provision of state law reworks the existing California Fair Employment and Housing Act to protect inclusive traits, such as hair textures and styles, that are common in certain ethnic and racial groups. To avoid a hair-related discrimination charge, diligent employers may want to take a few steps.

Examine grooming standards

Employers can create and enforce grooming policies without running afoul of the California CROWN act. These policies must not discriminate against protected workers, however. Accordingly, employers should carefully examine grooming guidelines to be sure they do not unfairly target certain workers whose personal appearances may have an ethnic or racial connection. When in doubt, it is probably best to err on the side of inclusivity.

Create a process

Employers should not take potential violations of the CROWN act lightly. Rather, they should have a comprehensive process to investigate possible incidents of hair-related discrimination. Following this procedure for every employee who makes a claim is an effective way to curtail future discrimination charges.

Explain the law

Whenever there is a meaningful change to employment law, employers should assume they need to conduct training. After all, if a manager or someone else inside the organization does not know about new protections, he or she may inadvertently engage in discrimination. Coaching employees not to use an individual’s hair traits to validate employment decisions is a good approach.

By working to comply with the CROWN Act, employers not only avoid a potentially costly discrimination charge, but they also retain top talent.

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