Hair discrimination occurs when people of color, predominantly African-Americans, are perceived as “unclean” or “unprofessional” due to the texture of their hair and are denied employment or housing opportunities. In recent years, this has become a hot-button issue in the U.S., with several cases of alleged hair discrimination in schools and the workplace making the news.
The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act is a piece of legislation that effectively bans discrimination based on hair texture and protective hairstyles, and South Carolina has become one of twenty-three states currently debating enacting its own version.
Hair Discrimination Is Real
The CROWN Act was first passed in California in 2019. It updated California law, changing the definition of “race” to include “traits historically associated with race,” which includes hair texture and protective hairstyles. New York and New Jersey also passed their own versions later that year. Both of their versions, however, clarify that while it is acceptable for an employer to require a “work-appropriate appearance,” it is not acceptable to implicitly hold that “work-appropriate” does not include hairstyles predominantly worn by African-Americans.
This idea of implicitly excluding a group from “acceptable” standards, even under a facially neutral standard, is referred to as disparate impact. Disparate impact is when a minority group is disadvantaged by a regulation or law that seems to be neutral on its face, but is not in reality. It can be difficult to prove, given that employers may simply argue that there was no intention to discriminate. But, if you can establish that a law does impact a certain group to a disproportionate degree, you may have a case.
Seek Help To File
Detractors of this kind of legislation tend to make the argument that this is an issue for the courts to decide. However, courts have not been receptive to hair discrimination claims, despite a documented history of unfair and inappropriate discrimination from employers. The courts have historically seen “race” as only dealing with immutable characteristics—that is, holding that if you can change something about yourself, it is not part of your race, because race is allegedly something one is born with.
If you suspect that you have been unfairly treated due to your hair texture or style, you need to be aware that at its heart, this is a racial discrimination case. Discrimination based on race is illegal, as per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Before you can file suit in court, you must file a charge either with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Ultimately, the organizations will either assist you or grant you the right to file suit.
Call A South Carolina Employment Discrimination Attorney
It is a great step that South Carolina is debating passing the CROWN act. But, in this day and age, it can feel overwhelming to try and seek justice after discrimination. Contacting a South Carolina employment discrimination attorney can help. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has years of experience with these types of cases, and is ready to help you with yours. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.