As a professional operation with a brand to protect, businesses sometimes have image-related policies that extend beyond a dress code to physical appearance for their employees. To many employers, this seems like a completely reasonable policy, especially in customer-facing environments. However, many employees disagree.
Hair discrimination legislation across the nation
Discrimination against natural Black hairstyles is a topic that into several state courts in 2019 when California and New York passed anti-discrimination laws on the subject. The legislation means that traditionally Black hairstyles like afros, dreadlocks and naturally curly hair cannot be discriminated against for being “less professional” than other hairstyles. Five other states have since proposed similar legislation.
Why your current policy on workplace hairstyles is still defensible in Connecticut
The fact that several states have passed labor laws on prohibiting hair discrimination means that businesses should proceed with caution on this issue, as it is alive in the public consciousness. However, there is no existing law against it in the state of Connecticut. If you have a hair-related policy in your employee handbook, consider the legal ramifications of said policy at this point but also know that your position is still defensible. It’s possible that, given the emerging and culturally relevant subject matter, your business could even set a precedent for future cases in Connecticut, influencing the way the law develops.
Why adopting an anti-hair discrimination policy could be a positive choice for your business
Beyond protecting yourself from possibly costly legal ramifications, businesses have an opportunity to show a positive environment for diversity and adaptability to current culture. This gives organizations a chance to not only keep in good standing with current employees but build a positive reputation through word-of-mouth for future employees. Businesses who can claim inclusive, forward-thinking work environments are more attractive to future employees.