North Carolina Cities Sign Onto Movement Banning Hair Discrimination

Employers in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Wake County are prohibited from discriminating workers based on hairstyle and textures.

Bookmark(0)

No account yet? Register

Here's what you need to know:

  • In Aug. 2021, the Charlotte city council approved additions to the definition of protected classes to include bias based on natural hairstyle, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation
  • Winston-Salem also expanded its laws on employer discrimination in Aug. 2021
  • Wake County’s anti-hair discrimination ban applies to employers with one or more employees within the county

An increasing number of North Carolina employers are under new rules forbidding hair discrimination — which started at the beginning of the new year. Charlotte and Winston-Salem forbid discrimination based on hairstyle and texture as of January 1, 2022. Wake County employers will have to contend with similar prohibitions as of February 1.

The expanded prohibitions against employment discrimination also include gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Charlotte ban against natural hairstyle discrimination

The ordinance will apply to all employers, regardless of how many employees there are.

In August 2021, the city council approved additions to the definition of protected classes to include bias based on natural hairstyle, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. The Charlotte city law defines natural hairstyle “as any hair texture, color, type or style of wear historically associated with race or national origin.”

Previously, Charlotte’s ban on employer bias only included “race, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age or disability.”

The ordinance will apply to all employers, regardless of how many employees there are, according to WBTV. However, employers can require that employees adhere to reasonable dress and grooming standards related to a business necessity.

Winston-Salem ban on hair discrimination

Winston-Salem also expanded its laws on employer discrimination in August.

The city council amended the definition of protected classes to include “discrimination on the basis of hair texture and hairstyles that are commonly associated with one’s national origin.”

Unlawful employer bias includes any hairstyle, hair type, or hair texture historically associated with race such as braids, locks, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, and afros. However, employers can require employees to follow reasonable dress or grooming standards due to a business necessity” during work hours.

The law covers employers with one or more workers within the Winston-Salem city limits.

Wake County ban on hair discrimination

Wake County’s anti-hair discrimination ban applies to employers with one or more employees within the county. Employer also includes Wake County contractors.

Protected hairstyle means any “hairstyle, hair type, or hair texture historically associated with race such as, but not limited to, braids, locks, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, and afros.”

Legally protected classes also include gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

The ordinance takes effect February 1.

Protected hairstyle means any “hairstyle, hair type, or hair texture historically associated with race such as, but not limited to, braids, locks, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, and afros.”

Other North Carolina cities take action

Other cities in North Carolina have also acted on the issue.

Raleigh’s city council agreed to update the city’s policies to clarify that the rules bar discrimination against city workers based on their hair texture and style. The July 2021 vote was unanimous. The law took effect upon approval.

Orange County updated its non-discrimination ordinance in March 2021. The act prohibits discrimination in federal, state, and local assisted programs, housing programs, public accommodations, and employment, based on a person’s hair texture or hairstyle.

Durham County also amended its discrimination laws in January 2021. The ban applies to Durham County employers and contractors with one or more employees. It does not include the federal government, the state or other governmental entities. The law took effect in July.

The Greensboro, North Carolina city council also banned hair discrimination in January 2021.

North Carolina students report hair bias

Some lawmakers said stories of students being forced to change their hairstyles to attend school or participate in sports caused them to support the legislation.

A 16-year-old Black softball player in North Carolina said an umpire told her that the beads in her hair violated the rules and that she would have to remove them to continue playing. In another instance, a 6-year-old African American student was reportedly told she couldn’t play in a North Carolina soccer game because her hair clips violated the rules.

“Black students are disciplined at a rate four times higher than any other racial or ethnic group, and research has found that 70 percent of all suspension disciplines are discretionary, many stemming from dress code violations that include hairstyles,” Congresswoman Watson Coleman said in a statement.

States and cities embrace the Crown Act

North Carolina isn’t the only state taking action against hair bias.

Oregon also has a ban on hair discrimination going into effect on January 1, 2022. Discrimination based on hair type and styles, including braids, locs, and twists will be prohibited. Public and private employers with one or more employees, including educational settings, must comply.

Indeed, hair bias protections have spread have spread rapidly among the states since California first enacted a statewide ban that went into effect in January 2020. The Golden State law bans workplace policies against hairstyles that are “historically associated with race” as a type of racial discrimination.

The “Crown Act” laws address grooming policies in the workplace and schools that have a disparate impact on African-Americans.

Thirteen states — California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Washington — have passed CROWN Act legislation, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Beauty brand Dove, the National Urban League and several others joined forces to found the CROWN Coalition. The coalition has championed CROWN Act laws across the country.

A 2019 research study by Dove found that:

  • Black women are 50% more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair
  • 80% of black women believe they must change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office
  • Black women’s hair is 3 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional

CROWN Act stalled in Congress

While state and local governments are taking definite steps to end hair bias, the federal government hasn’t been as swift. The U.S. House of Representatives approved the Crown Act last year but it stalled in the U.S. Senate. The bill was introduced again in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate in March 2021 but hasn’t achieved a vote in either the House or the Senate.

The federal CROWN Act forbids discrimination based on hairstyle or texture “if that hair texture or that hairstyle is commonly associated with a particular race or natural origin.” The bill recognizes “Afros, Bantu knots, braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, and twists” as hairstyles predominantly worn by Black men and women.

Workplace grooming policies

The laws on hair bias discrimination are rapidly evolving. Multi-location employers should check local and state laws for compliance requirements. However, employers can mandate grooming and dress standards for safety reasons.

Bookmark(0)

No account yet? Register

Might also interest you