Setting new precedent on Feb. 18, 2019, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) issued new guidance prohibiting race discrimination on the basis of hair. The new guidance provides legal recourse under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to individuals who are discriminated against, harassed, punished, not hired, or fired based upon the style and length of their hair. The guidance extends to work, school, housing, or public spaces, and generally includes all employers with four or more employees.

The NYCHRL protects individuals working and living in New York City. The new guidance allows New Yorkers to maintain “natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities,” regardless of the mutable nature of such characteristics. Natural hair is broadly defined to include natural texture and/or length and includes hair styled into twists, braids, cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, fades, and/or locs.

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