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Have you ever been harassed or reprimanded for your hairstyle?

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Do you remember the New Jersey high school wrestler who was forced to cut his dreadlocks at his state tournament? The incident sparked outrage across the country. Has a school or employer ever told you to change your hair?

A new law in New York City forbids employers, schools and public buildings from banning hairstyle choices. This law is reportedly the first of its kind in the U.S.

What was the need for this law?

Do you have dreadlocks or natural hair? Many people do. Hairstyles are a part of personal, cultural or religious expression. Those freedoms are usually protected in the U.S.

However, across the country, businesses and schools have dress codes that go too far. Many of them forbid hairstyles such as:

  • Dreadlocks
  • Afros longer than two inches
  • Cornrows
  • Hair jewelry
  • Free-hanging twists

They claim these policies help the group or business maintain overall neatness or professionalism. However, these ideas of neatness typically exclude people of diverse cultural or religious expression.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) finds that bans on natural hairstyles target black people as a “legal” form of race-based discrimination. Now it is illegal to deny someone a job or a promotion based on their hair.

Why are hairstyle bans legal?

Currently, employers and schools are legally allowed to have dress codes. As recently as 2017, at least one court has upheld an employer's right to forbid certain hair styles. However, you also have a right to be protected against discrimination.

You should not have to change who you are to attend school or hold a job. If you believe an employer or other group has discriminated against you, you may want to explore your legal options.

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