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Race Discrimination Based on Hair or Hairstyle

On July 12, 2019, the Governor signed a law that bans race discrimination based on an employee’s hair or hairstyle. It amends the Human Rights Law by adding “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles” to the definition of race. Protective hairstyles include, but are not limited to, “such hairstyles as braids, locks and twists.”

The law takes effect immediately.

Next Steps

To comply with this law, it is recommended that employers:

  • Review and update any dress codes, grooming policies, and general hiring and employment practices that place restrictions on natural hair styles that may be associated with race.
  • Consider whether your organization may need to implement or update your workplace diversity training.

HR Works Can Help

Subscribers of the HR Works Virtual Helpline may receive our sample Professional Attire policy. Employers who do not subscribe to the Helpline and would like more information on employee handbook policies and training may contact the Virtual Helpline at 585-381-8340 Opt. 1 or via email at

HR Works can also provide training for recruiters and managers related to non-discriminatory hiring and employment practices.

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HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.