On Monday, the New York City Commission on Human Rights published new legal guidelines that make it unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of having "natural" hairstyles.
The language states that New York residents are entitled to "preserve natural hair or hairstyles closely associated with their racial, ethnic or cultural identity." The natural hairstyles in question are named: "Natural hair treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state."
The law is a response to cultural prejudice against traditionally black hairstyles, which are seen as somehow inappropriate for the workplace or formal events.
Carmelyn Malalis, Human Rights Commissioner and Chair, told BuzzFeed News, "In New York City, we want to make a bold statement that these prohibitions on hairstyles that are closely associated with black people are a form of race discrimination. They really fail to consider the toll these bans take on black identity."
In an interview with the New York Times, Malalis said, "There's nothing keeping us from calling out these policies prohibiting natural hair or hairstyles most closely associated with black people. They are based on racist standards of appearance... [and] racist stereotypes that say black hairstyles are unprofessional or improper."
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Violation of this new law can result in a fine of up to $250,000. There are currently seven complaints being investigated, from people claiming to have been fired over their hair and others who claim they were made to wear their hair up while non-black employees were not.