The New York City Commission on Human Rights issued guidelines clarifying that, according to the city's human rights law, the restriction of or ban on natural hair and hairstyles in public spaces is discriminatory.
Photo: Blaxtar Essentials/Pexels
Photo: Blaxtar Essentials/Pexels

New York human rights law places ban on race discrimination on basis of hair

The New York Times reported the law applies to anyone in the city, but particularly black people, as such laws disproportionately affect them.

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“While a range of hair textures are common among people of African descent, natural hair texture that is tightly-coiled or tightly-curled as well as hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, and Afros are those most closely associated with Black people,” the commission said. “The decision to wear one’s hair in a particular style is highly personal, and reasons behind that decision may differ for each individual.”

According to the guidelines, the law now explicitly states such bans on hairstyles are illegal and discriminatory. Requirements that employees chemically relax their hair or straighten it fall in that category, for example, as well as other public spaces.

“It is no justification to prohibit natural hair or hairstyles because they are perceived to be a distraction or because of speculative health or safety concerns,” the guidelines said. “These protections extend to all users of public accommodations, including businesses such as restaurants, fitness clubs, stores, and nightclubs, and other public spaces, like parks, libraries, healthcare providers, and cultural institutions.”

Carmelyn P. Malalis, the commission chairwoman, told The Wall Street Journal the commission could seek a range of remedies for such discrimination, including up to $250,000 for willful violation of the law.

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