California Could Become the First State to Ban Natural Hair Discrimination

June 28, 2019 AT 8:32 AM

By Doha Madani and Janelle Griffith

California's state assembly voted 69-0 to pass a bill Thursday that includes hair texture and hairstyles under its equal rights protections, becoming the first state to ban discrimination against natural hair. The bill now goes to the desk of California Gov. Gavin Newsom to be signed into law.

The bill, which the Senate approved in April, updates the state's anti-discrimination law so that the term "race" includes "traits historically associated with race." Legislators acknowledged in the measure's text that society has subjected certain features equated with “blackness” to unequal treatment.

"Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group," the bill's text stated.

California's new measure is the first statewide ban on natural hair discrimination in the country. The New York City Commission on Human Rights passed similar protections in February, classifying restrictions on natural hair in workplaces, schools and public places as racial discrimination.

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