A brand guide for hair discrimination has been enacted in New York City. Any attempt to single individuals out based on their hairstyle is now classified as a discriminating against a persons ethnic or cultural identity. This is first type of legislation on the subject of hairstyle nationwide. This was enacted based on businesses singling out workers and potential employees based on ethnically based hairstyles, in particular the Black Community.
why should you care?
You may be thinking, of course some crazy new regulation happens in NYC. Why does that matter to me? Historically new human resource trends start in New York and California and eventually spread through the country. The normal way employment law gets enacted is through lawsuit. A landmark case happens and lawmakers react. Workers and candidates throughout the country see the new guidelines in NYC and say to themselves, "That has happened to me!". All of the sudden they go in search of an attorney and one of them finds a lawyer that wants to break new ground using the NYC ruling as precedent.
protecting your company
The best time to start putting policies in place to protect your company is now. Some simple guidelines for interviewers, managers, and hr personnel will save you exposure to $$$$ of lawsuit.
- Do not demand or suggest that a candidate will or will not be employed based on their hairstyle. This includes giving candidates advice on how they might be more successful landing a job with other employers if they changed their look. side note, it is a solid policy to never give a candidate advice on interviewing in any form including why they may or may not have earned your position
- If your company has appearance standards do not specify more than clean and neat appearance, in relation to grooming. Advise your staff that as long as employees are clean and appropriately put together that style decisions like corn rows, or dregs are not prohibited.
- If the work environment presents issues for longer hair allow for alternative means of protecting employees and products. An example might be food service, where longer hair can cause a problem. Here an employer can require a hair net or cap, but not cutting hair to specific length.
The button to the right links to the full document recently released as The New York City Human Rights Law ("NYCHRL"). It specifies fines as much as $250,000 for impeding a persons personal freedom of hair choice. Thankfully a few simple policies in place now will protect you.