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Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy
Photo of Michelle Cohen Levy

Are grooming policies racial discrimination? 

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination |

Employees have many protective rights. The biggest right employees have is the right to a safe workplace. A safe workplace means one that is free of discrimination and harassment. 

While many forms of discrimination are obvious, some others are more discrete – like grooming policies that are actually racially biased. An employee could face racial discrimination if a business enforces a certain grooming code. Here’s what you should know:

Employees are protected by the CROWN Act

A workplace dress code typically regulates what employees are allowed to wear. A retail worker or restaurant staff member may be required to wear certain nondescript clothing that has the business’s logo somewhere attached. While office workers may have fewer requirements, they may still need to uphold a certain quality of appearance. 

One thing many businesses include in their dress codes is grooming policies. A grooming policy may detail how long, what color and the texture an employee’s hair must be. These kinds of grooming policies often make it harder for people of color to reasonably accommodate workplace policies.

People of color with natural hair textures often have to spend small fortunes on dangerous chemicals and hair treatments to align with a business’s grooming policies. This also often harms people who have cultural pride in their hair. Furthermore, people of color are often rejected during the interview process for having natural hairstyles.

People have fought against grooming policies stating they are forms of discrimination. The CROWN Act is a policy that protects workers from unjust discrimination in the workplace because they wear afros, locks, Bantu knots or rows. Giving employees more protective rights can create a more diverse and safe workplace. Employees who suffer from discrimination should be aware of their legal rights.