New York State has joined California in banning hair discrimination in the workplace. The New York law—which was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on July 12—amends the state human rights law by including “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles” in the definition of “race.” The term “protective hairstyles” includes hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.
The law takes effect immediately.
Companies with New York employees and operations should immediately review their appearance and hair polices to make sure they comply with the new law. Those policies should use neutral, generally-applicable language and should not single out hair textures or hairstyles that are associated with African-Americans or any other racial group.
As we have previously reported, New York City has issued its own guidance on hair discrimination. The New York City guidance is much more detailed and broader in scope than its state counterpart: it applies not only to hairstyles associated with race, but also to hairstyles associated with ethnicity and culture. The New York City guidance also provides a litany of unlawful appearance and grooming policies and practices.
If you have not been keeping score, New York has enacted four major employment laws in the past few weeks: a dramatic expansion of the New York State Human Rights Law, a new equal pay and salary history law, and now a hairstyle discrimination law. New York is giving California a run for its money on who has the most plaintiff-friendly employment laws in the country.