NYS Bans Discrimination Against Natural Hair

On July 12, Governor Cuomo signed a bill amending the New York Human Rights Law that takes effective immediately.

Governor Cuomo signed a bill amending the New York Human Rights Law

Similar to the recent NY City and California laws, the amendment prohibits employment discrimination based on “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” Protective hairstyles includes, but is not limited to, “such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.”

It’s critical for NY employers to review their grooming and appearance polices to ensure that those policies do not contain any prohibitions that discriminate against a particular racial group. Although no current guidance exists at the state level, the NYC Commission on Human Rights’ enforcement letter is instructive, noting, “While an employer can impose requirements around maintaining a work appropriate appearance, they cannot enforce such policies in a discriminatory manner.”