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Does job discrimination based on hairstyle really exist?

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2020 | Workplace Discrimination |

Imagine losing your job because of your new hairstyle. Imagine having a job offer rescinded when your prospective employer found an image of you on social media and decided you were no longer a good fit for the position because of your hairstyle.

These scenarios have surfaced for women of color in the workplace because their hair is unique, whether it is an Afro, curly, coiled or braided. For some employers, such hairstyles are unseemly compared with the straight hairstyles of White women.

Michigan could join other states in prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyle.

Michigan State researchers confirm workplace bias

In August, researchers from Michigan State University and Duke University published a study that disclosed the prevalence of employment discrimination based on hair.

The research paper titled “The Natural Hair Bias in Job Recruitment” revealed that Black women with natural hair were considered less professional and less capable. These women also were less likely to receive a job interview.

The researchers completed four studies in which hundreds of participants reviewed job applicants via LinkedIn and Facebook social media profiles. The results showed that participants viewed Black women with natural hairstyles as being less professional and less skilled compared with Black women with straightened hair and White women who had curly or straight hair.

Employers certainly want their employees to appear professional. What exactly professional means, while at the same time not being discriminatory, is a difficult question.

Detroit city council supports legislation

Momentum could be building in Michigan to pass legislation – known as the Crown Act bill — prohibiting discrimination based on the style and texture of a person’s hair.

Introduced in July 2019 in Michigan, the bill has languished. At least seven states or cities already have passed similar laws. They include California, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Washington and the city of Cincinnati. The legislation received a boost recently in Michigan when the Detroit city council threw its support behind the bill.


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