Gwinnett County expands nondiscrimination policy for employees

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

Credit: Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta J

Gwinnett County employees will now officially be protected against discrimination based on hair type, hair texture and other traits associated with race or national origin.

On Tuesday, Board of Commissioners amended the county’s nondiscrimination policy. The update also adds protections for employees’ family status, homeless status and immigration status.

The policy already protects county employees against discrimination based on their sex, race, color, national origin, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, religious or political affiliation, marital status of if they are pregnant, disabled, active duty military or a veteran.

“Discrimination takes many different forms and it’s important for Gwinnett County to take the lead in identifying and eliminating them,” said Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson in a press release.

A county spokesperson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that no incident led to the policy update. The diverse makeup of Gwinnett County and its employees prompted officials to further solidify their stance against discrimination, the spokesperson said.

The amendment drew inspiration from the CROWN Act, legislation proposed in state legislatures across the nation to ensure that race-based hairstyles, textures and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists and knots are protected in the workplace.

“People are multi-faceted with many abilities and in an evolving and diverse community like Gwinnett, we’re striving not to let things like hair styles or family arrangements get in the way of recruiting and promoting the best talent we can find to assist in delivering superior services to our taxpayers,” said Commissioner Marlene Fosque in the release.

The changes to the policy take effect Nov. 1. County Administrator Glenn Stephens recommended the updates to the Merit Board in July. The board recommends personnel policy and hears appeals for involuntary terminations, suspensions and involuntary demotions.

“I’m happy that the work I did since getting elected to standardize this language and wording continues to be updated and enhanced to prevent all targeted and arbitrary discrimination,” said Commissioner Ben Ku — who initiated the conversation of updating the policy in 2019 — in the release.