Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for employers to see an ethnic hairstyle and not understand the cultural significance of it, thus opting to tell an employee to change it immediately or risk termination.
However, Delaware recently introduced some additional protection for workers struggling against this subtle form of discrimination.
Expansions of definitions
ADP discusses the CROWN act and how it affects ethnic hair discrimination. This protects both workers and individuals attending schools from discrimination on a racial basis due to hairstyle choice.
For example, it targets language within contracts that state an employee must look “cleanly groomed”. The act asks for workplaces to clearly define what “cleanly groomed” means, and discuss how employees must comply. This is especially important in instances of ethnic or natural hairstyles which seem unkempt-looking to some.
These policies also need to detail the ways in which employees with natural or ethnic hair may comply with company standards of personal grooming no matter what type of hairstyle they have.
Reviewing company policy
Employers need to review their company policies, making sure that the language and practices do not negatively impact African Americans and other minority communities. Policies banning locks, twists and cornrows require particular attention. Additionally, this act protects people with natural hair from missing an opportunity for a position specifically because of their hairstyle.
Despite these steps, it is of course still possible to face discrimination based on hairstyle. Fortunately, thanks to the CROWN act, there are ways to proceed that will protect a person’s dignity and ethnic identity from discrimination.