Racism and racial discrimination have been a part of American society for so long that people often struggle to identify racism in the workplace if it doesn’t involve racial slurs or overt hatred. Racism isn’t just one person acting out because of misguided assumptions about people of other races.
There are structural components to racism as well that aren’t as obvious as the hatred of an individual might be. For example, for decades, employers in California and across the country have included not-so-subtle racial rules in their employee contracts or handbooks. Trying to mandate that everyone adhere to Eurocentric beauty standards to appear professional is a common policy that puts millions of Americans at a disadvantage.
If your employer has company rules that prohibit natural or protective hairstyles, that policy may actually be a form of racial discrimination under California law.
California prohibits employers from classifying black hair as unprofessional
Not only have African Americans historically had a harder time breaking into high-paying jobs, but they have also faced higher costs to maintain those positions. Dress code rules that forbid protective hairstyles designed specifically for curly or black hair have long forced people to invest hundreds of dollars a month in maintaining unnatural and unhealthy hairstyles. Some workers have even had to cut their hair so short that they can’t do anything with it.
If your employer has a rule against natural hairstyle or if they tell you that they have chosen not to promote you or give you a raise because of how you wear your hair, that could very well be racial discrimination. Knowing when your employer violates your rights can help you fight back against discrimination that affects you and could affect others in the future.