Legislation approved this past Session, expanded the Virginia Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles.
In expanding the definition of protections against race discrimination, the law prohibits discrimination because of race or on the basis of race to include “because of or on the basis of traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.”
Virginia is the fourth state to ban hairstyle discrimination, after California, New York and New Jersey previously passed similar legislation. More than 20 other states have had similar legislation proposed or pending.
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has unsuccessfully attempted to include hairstyle discrimination in Title VII litigation (which includes race, gender, national origin, color and religion).
The new Virginia law therefore provides greater rights to workers in the state than that currently protected under federal law.
Virginia employers need to update dress codes, policies around appearance and other policies or processes that could violate Virginia’s law against hairstyle discrimination.
Furthermore, all managers must be trained to avoid any stereotyping or discrimination, including in the hiring process. The training should discuss the law as well as implicit bias.
The law applies to all races.