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Are there times when your hairstyle does matter at work?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2022 | Workplace Discrimination |

Any kind of hair-related policies have to be fair to all workers and must not be based in discrimination. For example, the employer could have a rule that no one can wear fantasy colors in their hair (like pink, blue or purple). That’s fine, because each person can abide by the rule without inequality.

If the employer had a policy that said no one could have red hair, then that would be discriminatory against anyone with naturally red hair and would be harmful to some employees. Similarly, stating that hair has to be straight when there are curly haired workers may also be discriminatory.

African American women face the most scrutiny

While a hair and grooming policy may affect many people of various backgrounds negatively, it is African American women who face the most scrutiny in America. In one study, it was found that around 80% of these women felt that they needed to change their hair to fit in at work. That may mean that they wear straight wigs that appear more Caucasian in texture or that they chemically straighten or dye their hair to fit in.

It is unfair and discriminatory to expect people to change their natural hair to appear more “professional.” Textured natural hair, for example, is no less professional than curly blonde or thin straight hair.

Companies can have hair and grooming policies, but they need to be cautious

While companies are allowed to have grooming and hair policies, they need to make sure that they don’t step over the line of what’s reasonable and move into a territory of discrimination. Usually, hair and grooming policies are there to ensure that all employees have a clean, professional appearance.

A good hair and grooming policy will affect all employees equally. For example, all employees may be asked to wear black pants and white shirts with an exception for employees who are required to wear other items due to their religions or cultures. The policy may ask all men to have hair cut above the collar (with exceptions) and all women to pull their hair back or have it cut short (with exceptions).

Employers must be reasonable. If you believe you’ve been a victim of discrimination, look into your legal options.