Natural Hairstyle Discrimination Banned in California

natural hairstyle discriminationHave you missed out on employment opportunities because of natural hairstyle discrimination of your afro, braids, or locks?  Starting in January 2020, employers will no longer be allowed to discriminate against people based on natural hairstyles that they may not like. The Governor signed SB 188 into law, strengthening California’s prohibitions on race discrimination. If you experience issues related to your natural hair in the workplace, it may be worthwhile to contact local employment attorney about next steps.  

History of Natural Hairstyle Discrimination

While both state and federal laws ban racial discrimination, hairstyles have not always been protected in all federal courts. The issue came into the spotlight in December 2018, when a young black wrestler in New Jersey was made to choose between his dreadlocks and being forced to forfeit a wrestling match. It was a horrible decision that no person, let alone a high schooler, should be have to make. The California legislature acknowledged a number of historical trends in the text of SB 188:

  • Traits associated with blacks, including dark skin and kinky hair, have historically been viewed as a sign of inferiority in this country;
  • Society’s understanding of “professionalism” has been largely linked to European norms of appearance;
  • Irrespective of strides to reduce racism, hairstyles remain a significant source of racism in California and throughout the country;
  • This racism has very real impacts on the health and economic status of Black people and communities;
  • Workplace dress codes that ban natural hairstyles, including braids, afros, locks, and twists, disparately impact Black people;
  • Since hair is ultimately a proxy for race, discrimination of the basis of hair constitutes racial discrimination.

Practical Meaning of the Law

The impacts of this new law are significant. For individuals who have experienced discrimination based on hairstyles, affirmative relief is now a reality. This could mean a number of remedies are available, including:

  • Reinstatement to a former position;
  • Back pay for amounts lost due to termination or job reassignment;
  • Out-of-pocket expense reimbursements;
  • Grants of tenure previously denied;
  • Promotions previously denied;
  • Training opportunities for which the employee was previously deemed ineligible.

A Name with Meaning

Senate Bill 188 specifically identifies traits generally associated with race as being on the list of issues deserving of legal protections, along with sexual orientation, disability, sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. It has been given the acronym the CROWN Act, in order to promote the idea of respect for natural hair. No longer will Californians have to make grooming choices related to natural hair that could have significant ramifications in the workplace or at school. Instead, the Senate, which passed the bill unanimously, hopes that an expanded view of what constitutes “professionalism” will promote greater acceptance of the black experience in the state. [Read more…]

Boeing Pays for Hostile Work Environment

hostile work environmentSix hostile work environment lawsuits at Boeing. Boeing considers itself to be a stellar employer, one that aspires to build values of respect and that is intolerant of harassment. A jury, however, found that the company fell short of that aspiration, and demonstrated just how serious the shortcomings were with a verdict awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars to a disparaged employee.

Details of the Boeing Hostile Work Environment Case

Roderick Marshall was a veteran employee at Boeing, having put in 18 years with the company. He tolerated jokes that were seething with racism without reporting them to supervisors. While management does not dispute this, they did not deal with the situation because, they say, Marshall failed to follow company protocol for reporting complaints.

Then one day, a white employee at Boeing twiddled with a string of rope, eyes on Marshall, Marshall could not have imagined what was to come next  The white man tossed the rope to Marshall, who caught it, only to see that it had been tied into a hangman’s noose. Offended, Marshall had had enough. A jury awarded Marshall $350,000 in damages. Their judgment listed several problems:

  • Boeing failed to prevent harassment;
  • Hiring practices were negligent;
  • Supervision of employees was lax;
  • Retention of problem employees was negligent.

This case highlights the responsibility of employers to police the work environment in order to ensure that employees are safe in all regards. Unfortunately for Boeing, their court days are not over. Five additional lawsuits are currently in the works, all related to discrimination and harassment.  

Defining a Hostile Work Environment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) cites particular requirements in defining a hostile work environment:

  • Demonstrations of discriminatory behavior directed toward a protected class (race, gender, age, sex, disability, or religion);
  • Repeated, not isolated events over time;
  • Actions severe enough that a reasonable person’s work would experience interference as a result of feelings of intimidation and/or abuse, or;
  • Actions that prevent an employee’s ability to advance;
  • A failure of management to respond to a known and/or reported situation, or;
  • An insufficient response to the problem.

Building a Healthy Workplace Environment

As an employee, there are a number of things you can do to help build an inclusive work environment. Some suggestions include:

  • Joining company activities and events designed to help employees network and grow relationships;
  • Participating in additional professional organizations;
  • Creating your own social groups with individuals from work, or who can help you with workplace issues.
Experiencing a Hostile Work Environment

In the event you are suffering from a hostile work environment, what should you do? Here are some tips:

  • Keep dated notes about specific issues;
  • File a complaint with human resources;
  • Consider getting counseling to deal with the emotional repercussions.

[Read more…]

Standing up to Racial Discrimination

discriminationWhen a black, female Chipotle employee confronted her manager about being assigned night shifts with fellow black employees, while Latino workers were given more preferable day shifts, her manager had a troubling comeback. “Black girls always have an attitude.” The worker then complained to a district manager, who brushed her aside. According to records, the employee was then fired without being given any explanation. She did not take it sitting down. Instead, she marched into court and filed a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination, wrongful termination, failure to prevent harassment, and retaliation. If you are facing racial discrimination in the workplace, you may wish to consult an attorney and take legal action, as well.

Racial Discrimination is Real

Although some may try to deny it, statistics indicate that racial discrimination is alive and well in this country. Wage gaps are one of the clearest markers of this:

  • Median hourly earnings for men of color lag behind those of white men by six to seven dollars;
  • The wage gap separating black and Hispanic men and white men has not narrowed since 1980;
  • Black men earn 73% of what white men earn;
  • Hispanic men earn 71% of what white men earn;
  • Even with a bachelor’s degree, men of color earn 80% of what white men earn.

It is no wonder that just over 20% of black adults and just under 20% of Hispanics report that they have experienced unfair or discriminatory actions in hiring, promotion or pay in the past year.  Meanwhile, while 5% of white adults say their race makes success difficult, that number is 40% for blacks and 20% of Hispanics.

What Does Racial Discrimination Look Like?

Racial discrimination can rear its ugly head in a number of ways. Some examples you may encounter include:

  • You are not hired because a company’s clients would not be working with someone of your race, or you are kept in the background so customers will not be exposed to someone of your race;
  • You are laid off, while white employees with similar skills and less seniority are kept on;
  • White employees with similar positions and experience are paid more than you;
  • Whites are assigned preferential shifts or territories while you are given unfavorable ones;
  • Colleagues tell racially offensive jokes, use racial slurs casually, or in other ways create a hostile work environment and management does not deal with the situation.

Remedies for Racial Discrimination

If you experience race discrimination at work, you should know that Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 protects people from such workplace violations. At Beck Law P.C., we do not tolerate excuses. We seek justice for those treated unfairly. That may include:

  • Back pay and/or reinstatement following a lay-off or firing;
  • Hiring when you were denied such due to race;
  • Promotions you did not get due to race;
  • Compensatory damages for pain and suffering;
  • Punitive damages
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Court costs

[Read more…]

Workplace Race Discrimination – Stanley Wilson v. CNN

Race DiscriminationRace discrimination in the workplace? What would you say if someone told you “there is no biological reality to human race.” That is right: Anthropologists have believed for years that there is no such thing as variation in biological races. Despite these scientific conclusions on race, racism itself continues to be pervasive in America. U.S. courts are working overtime to protect the rights of Americans who face discrimination due to their skin color, heritage, or culture. If workplace discrimination due to race has impacted you, an experienced employment law attorney can help.

CNN Race Discrimination Lawsuit is Not Going Away

A California Appellate court found that CNN was not off the hook in the case of Stanley Wilson v. CNN. In a 2014 suit, Wilson claimed that after years of being passed over for promotions, he was ultimately fired from CNN. While CNN asserts the firing was a result of plagiarism, Wilson contends that race discrimination was at the root of the termination.

In an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion against Wilson, CNN argued in favor of its “protected activity” in the free speech arena. The trial court granted CNN’s motion, and Wilson’s claims were dismissed.

But in December of 2016, the Second Appellate Court essentially found that free speech does not trump an employee’s right to a discrimination-free workplace, nor the does it give employers the right to retaliate against employees. Wilson’s suit is alive and well and will proceed.

What Constitutes Race Discrimination?

Race discrimination is a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and comes in many variations. Some markers of this type of unlawful activity include:

  • Job Accessibility: Not being recruited, hired, or being fired, due to race;
  • Segregation: Experiencing physical isolation or exclusion from positions, responsibilities, or relationships; even having one’s employment files coded according to race;
  • Being passed over for promotions despite experience, seniority, or qualifications, particularly if specific groups are disparately impacted;
  • Harassment: Exposure to derogatory or unflattering racial comments or labels causing one discomfort in the workplace;
  • Lower Pay: Experiencing significant pay differentials which appear to be based on race;
  • Duties: Being assigned to tasks which are more menial in nature, with less authority or impact;
  • Fewer Training Opportunities: Being excluded from opportunities for professional development.

How Common is Race Discrimination in the Workplace?

Unfortunately, discrimination occurs more often that many Americans would like to admit. In fact, the number of complaints received by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) since 2011 based on race is approaching 50,000. [Read more…]


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