Kansas City Joins Growing Trend of Hairstyle Discrimination Bans

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

October 15, 2020

The growing trend of hairstyle discrimination bans has moved to the Midwest as Kansas City, Missouri, has expanded its anti-discrimination law to include hairstyles and hair texture.

Effective November 1, Kansas City's CROWN Act will consider appearance policies that prohibit, limit or otherwise restrict an individual's natural hair type historically associated with a particular race to be unlawful discrimination.

The ordinance notes that employer policies prohibiting natural hair, including afros, braids, twists and dreadlocks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as such policies are more likely to burden or punish them than any other group.

Several states have enacted hairstyle discrimination bans in the last two years, including:

Some other states and cities are weighing similar measures to prevent the use of natural hairstyles as a proxy for race discrimination. According to a Dove research study on hair discrimination conducted in 2019, Black women are 30% more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace appearance policy than white co-workers. In addition, 80% of Black women agreed with the statement, "I have to change my hair from its natural state to fit in at the office."

Employers in states or localities that have passed hair discrimination laws should carefully review their dress code and grooming policies to ensure they do not ban natural or traditional hairstyles and create a disparate impact on minority job applicants or employees.