The original spark may not have come from a New Jersey workplace, but the final outcome will be something that will benefit thousands upon thousands of New Jersey workers. That outcome is that, as nj.gov reported, on Dec. 19, 2019, New Jersey became the third state to ban discrimination based upon a person’s natural hairstyle when Governor Murphy signed the CROWN Act into law. This is an extremely important new law for workers, many of whom in the past have been forced to choose between taking costly and sometimes drastic measures to alter their hair or else face workplace punishment or even termination due to their failure to conform to workplace grooming rules.
As several lawmakers have pointed out recently, no one should face adverse action in employment simply because of the way in which their hair grows naturally. Now, the law will make it clear that imposing such unfair rules is against the law and entitles the worker to pursue financial compensation in court with the assistance of a New Jersey race discrimination attorney.
One year to the day before the governor signed the act, on Dec. 19, 2018, a South Jersey high school wrestler was on the verge of competing when he was approached with what many would consider a “Hobson’s choice.” A referee told the student that he must shave off his dreadlocks, or else he must forfeit his match. The student eventually wrestled, but not before suffering the humiliation of having his head shaved right there in the gym. That terrible incident served as the “flashpoint” that set New Jersey on the road to banning discrimination based on natural hair.
Many New Jersey workers have been forced to make similar choices in the past. They might prefer to wear their hair in an Afro, dreadlocks, braids, or twists, but their employers banned the wearing of these hairstyles on the job. For some workers, especially African-American workers, they may find themselves forced to use harsh chemical products and treatments on their hair that are potentially both dangerous and very expensive, all just to come into compliance with their employer’s grooming policies. Now, they will no longer be forced to make that choice.
Hair discrimination, while unwritten discrimination, is illegal discrimination nonetheless
This is a valuable advancement in New Jersey law because many employer grooming policies regarding hair are subtly and indirectly, but nevertheless insidiously, racist. As one of the state senators who spearheaded this new law noted, many of the biases regarding what is or is not a professional or hygienic appearance in terms of hair, which form the foundation of many workplace hair policies, are based upon “Eurocentric beauty standards.”
These biased policies have various ways in which they have the potential to be discriminatory. For some workers, they may choose a hairstyle, such as an Afro, because it is reflective of the natural way in which their hair grows. For others, a hairstyle like braids might be an important reflection of their racial culture and heritage. Either way, by banning these styles, employers’ policies imply that African-American ethnicity or African-American culture and heritage are somehow inherently inferior or lesser than Eurocentric ethnicity, culture, and heritage. This new law affirms that instilling such distinctions and biases into employment rules is race discrimination and is not permitted in New Jersey workplaces.
There are many different ways, some subtle and some not-so-subtle, in which an employer can discriminate against you based upon your race. If you’ve been a victim of this kind of discrimination, contact the diligent and hardworking New Jersey race discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates for the representation that you need. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to find out how our team can help you achieve the resolution that you deserve.