Thursday, November 21, 2019

“Hairstyle discrimination” laws: a solution in search of a problem

I fully embrace the irony of a local news broadcast holding me out as the expert on hair discrimination. 👨🏻‍🦲

Irony notwithstanding, here I am on last night’s 6 o’clock news discussing why we don’t need to ban workplace hairstyle discrimination. (Big thank you to WEWS’s Mike Brookbank for reaching out and for the interview.)

We do not need to enact laws to prohibit conduct that existing laws already prohibit. Title VII already prohibits race, national origin, and religious discrimination. If we are concerned that employers are discriminating against African-Americans and other minorities because of their natural hairstyles or hair coverings, the already existing prohibitions against discrimination are more than enough to provide a remedy to aggrieved employees.

An employer cannot refuse to hire, or fire, someone because of their hair if their hair is a proxy for their race, national origin, religion, or any other protected class. Moreover, when an employee’s sincerely held religious belief in involved, an employer must reasonably accommodate by offering an exception to a hair or grooming policy (provided it does not cause an undue hardship).

I’m as anti-discrimination as anybody. But I’m also against unnecessary laws. And laws that prohibit hairstyle discrimination seem as unnecessary as they come.