NJ Anti-Discrimination Guidance Includes African American Hairstyles

The Division on Civil Rights (DRC) released guidance clarifying that discrimination based on race includes discrimination based on a trait “inextricably intertwined with or closely associated with race,” including hairstyle. 

The guidance also clarifies that New Jersey law generally prohibits employers, housing providers and places of public accommodation (including schools) in New Jersey from enforcing grooming or appearance policies that ban, limit, or restrict hairstyles closely associated with being Black, including, but not limited to, twists, braids, cornrows, Afros, locs, Bantu knots, and fades. 

“Discrimination against Black people because of their hair, which is often based on stereotypes that traditionally Black hairstyles are ’unprofessional‘ or ’unkempt,’ is a persistent form of anti-Black racism,” said DCR Director Rachel Wainer Apter. “This guidance makes clear that employers, housing providers and places of public accommodation cannot police Black hair.”

The guidance document issued today by DCR cautions that “just as it would likely violate the LAD to refuse to hire an Orthodox Jewish man because he wears payot, or to refuse to hire a Muslim woman because she wears a hijab, or to refuse to hire a Sikh person because they wear uncut hair, it is unlawful to refuse to hire or to otherwise treat a Black person differently because they wear their hair in a style that is closely associated with being Black.”

If you feel that you have been discriminated against in your place of employment based on your cultural or religious hair, clothing, or appearance, please know that this is not okay.  Call Vlasac & Shmaruk today for a free consultation with an experienced employment attorney.