When you hear about discrimination, chances are you think of race, gender or sexuality. But there’s another form of discrimination that’s often overlooked: hairstyle discrimination.
What is hairstyle discrimination?
Hairstyle discrimination is when people get judged or treated differently because of the way they wear their hair. This can happen in any setting, but it’s especially common in workplaces. Many companies still have strict dress codes that dictate what kinds of hairstyles are “acceptable” and which ones aren’t. And while these rules may seem innocuous, they can actually have a very real and negative impact on employees.
How hairstyle discrimination manifests itself in the workplace
One is through hiring practices. For example, a black woman with dreadlocks may get passed over for a job because her hairstyle gets looked at as “unprofessional.” Or, an Asian man with a traditional topknot may be told that he needs to cut his hair if he wants to get a promotion.
Another way it manifests itself is in how people get treated once they’re actually employed. For example, a woman with braids may be told by her boss that her hairstyle is “too casual” for the office. Or, an African American man with a natural Afro may be told he needs to “tame” his hair if he wants to get taken seriously by clients. That’s not to mention the microaggressions that people with non-conventional hairstyles face on a daily basis, like having their hair touched or commented on without permission.
What should you do if you experience hairstyle discrimination at work?
If you’re experiencing hairstyle discrimination at work, there are a few things you can do. First, try to talk to your boss or HR department about the issue. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, contact your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. The EEOC is a federal agency that enforces anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. They may be able to help you file a claim or take other legal action.
Discrimination of any kind is never acceptable, and hairstyle discrimination is no different. By raising awareness and taking action, you can help to put an end to this type of discrimination in the workplace.