New York City set to ban discrimination against certain hairstyles; hefty fines for violators

New York City is literally unleashing a form of fashion police.

In a first-of-its-kind policy, the so-called sanctuary city run by Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio announced it will be prosecuting anyone caught discriminating based on a person’s hairstyle.

 

New guidelines are expected to be released this week by the New York City Commission on Human Rights which will ban hair-based harassment as a form of racial discrimination, according to The New York Times, which reported that the law is especially “aimed at remedying the disparate treatment of black people.”

The guidelines specifically note banning discrimination against anyone wearing “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

The new law targets business and employer policies which ban some hairstyles that are “based on racist standards of appearance,” according to Carmelyn P. Malalis, the commissioner and chairwoman of the human rights commission.

“There’s nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people,” and that push “racist stereotypes that say black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper,” she told the Times.

According to The New York Times:

The guidelines, obtained by The New York Times before their public release, are believed to be the first of their kind in the country. They are based on the argument that hair is inherent to one’s race (and can be closely associated with “racial, ethnic, or cultural identities”) and is therefore protected under the city’s human rights laws, which outlaw discrimination on the basis of race, gender, national origin, religion and other protected classes.

To date, there is no legal precedent in federal court for the protection of hair.

 

Those found guilty of the discrimination banned in the new law could face up to$250,000 fines with no cap on damages. But workplace violations are not the only ones subject to the policy, as CBS New York points out that nightclubs, gyms, schools and other locations outside of just a person’s place of employment can face penalties.

Many interviewed by the Times said they were singled out because of their hairstyles and forced to change or quit their jobs.

Last year, the U.S. Navy changed its policies on hairstyles, following the U.S. Army lifting a ban on dreadlocks one year earlier. Female sailors are now allowed to wear dreadlocks, ponytails and styled buns. The U.S. Marines approved lock and twist hairstyles in uniform back in 2015.

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Frieda Powers

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