New York has taken an important step toward equality, making it illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of their hairstyle. Assembly Bill 07797, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on July 12, “prohibits race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles.” The law is a response to the unfortunate trend of jobs sending people — specifically black women — home from work because of their hairstyle.
According to statistics, black women are 80 percent more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms or work expectations, and they are 50 percent more likely to be sent home from work because of their har.
The New York law follows the example of a similar law passed in California on July 3, as well as the guidelines introduced by the New York Commission on Human Rights back in February. The guidelines call for protecting citizens’ rights to wear “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.”
Tremaine Wright, a New York Assembly member and black woman, who has worn her natural hair for 17 years, said that she “determined a legislative fix was in order” for this issue, and that she is “beyond proud to have done so, and for New York to be the first state to have had this historic bill passed in both chambers.”