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Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement: Include Hair Style and Texture In Anti-Discrimination Policies

This is the sixth post in a 12-part series on how companies can show support for the Black Lives Matter movement by changing company policies and practices. This post focuses on the importance of updating grooming/personal appearance policies and EEO/anti-discrimination policies to include language that forbids discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.

Research from the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition indicates that black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair and are 80% more likely than white women to agree with the statement, “I have to change my hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.”

At this time, Washington, California, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey have each enacted a version of the CROWN Act. Legislation to ban hair discrimination is currently pending in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Georgia.

The New York CROWN statute, amended the term “race” to include “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles,” and went on to define “protective hairstyles” as including but not limited to “braids, locks, and twists.” And to prohibit discrimination based on hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Employers should review their internal policies to make sure that the policies are clear (both in their EEO/anti-discrimination Policy and in their dress code/grooming policy) and there is no language that would ban or otherwise restrict an employee’s ability to maintain their nature hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locks, twists, or bantu knots. Additionally, language should be added to the EEO/anti-discrimination policy to note that employees will not be discriminated against on the basis of race (including hair texture or protective hairstyles).

In addition to learning more about third-party intervention and ways your organization can benefit from such training, other ways companies can create policies that lead to actual change include:

  • If you don’t already have one, make sure that you have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy that is easily accessible to employees and applicants (this is the bare minimum of what all employers should be doing, but is also the foundation of the process). Read more about this here.
  • Train employees on anti-discrimination laws, duties, and policies. If you already perform training, great, but consider ways you can make the training more impactful. Read more about this here.
  • Provide implicit bias training to employees. While in the past, there has been concern that acknowledging implicit bias will be detrimental in any future discrimination lawsuit, this is not likely the case. Implicit bias is present in us all and we all need to be aware of the devastating impact it has on the choices we make on a daily basis. Read more about this here.
  • Provide third-party intervention training to employees and managers so that they have the tools and resources to assist them should they witness racist behavior or microagressions in the workplace. Read more about this here.
  • Consider the creation of affinity groups with the purpose of providing a platform/forum for employees to discuss ways in which the company can create a more inclusive and equitable environment.
  • Educate your managers about the differences between diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Review past EEO-1 and Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) information to identify places in which the company could be doing better (even if not required by law).
  • Stop referral-based hiring programs as these continue to perpetuate the hiring of non-diverse candidates.
  • Listen to the experiences of black employees and employees of color.
  • Educate your managers and decision-makers about the BLM movement and the injustices experienced by black employees and employees of color.

Click here to read part five of this series.

Topics: Discrimination, HR Best Practices