New Hair Discrimination Bill Seeks to Address Concerns

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Hair discrimination stories were hearing by State Senator Terrell McKinney of Omaha, Nebraska, growing up as an African American. He heard them from his mother, aunts, and other female relatives.

Employers Getting into the Hair Mix

In fact, they talked about their employers who sent Black women home to cover or change their natural hair. Their manager would question why they didn’t wear their hair in a “normal” way and about people saying their hairstyle being dirty or unprofessional. Moreover, there were even cases in which people lost their jobs over how they wear their hair.

Terrell McKinney Goes Before Legislature’s Business and Labor Committee

This past Monday, McKinney in fact told members of the Legislature’s Business and Labor Committee that he had hopes the situation would change before his 10-year-old daughter Sana’a enters the workforce.

Hair is Part of a Person’s Identity

“What defines a person in part is their hair which is so fundamental to who they are,” he said. “Therefore, it would be hard for me to tell her to stay here in Nebraska. That is if an employer said she should change her hair.”

Hair Discrimination Bill

McKinney has introduced LB451 toward that end. Moreover, the bill would amend the state law banning race-based job discrimination to put characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, and protective hairstyles under the definition of race. This would include protective hairstyles that consist of braids, locks and twists, among others.

Hair Discrimination Bill Sets Standards

In fact, this bill also makes it clear that employers can set hair standards for health and safety reasons. Moreover, if they are applying evenhandedly. That is if accommodations are attempting.

LB1060 Vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts

In fact, this measure is similar to LB1060 from last year. The measure was vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts. Moreover, the governor said that while he agreed with the goal of the bill, he was in fact concerned that hairstyles consisting of locks, braids, and twists are not exclusive to one particular race. In addition, he also raised concerns about safety issues.

Moreover, McKinney said he tried to address those concerns with the new bill.

Hair Discrimination can be Specific and Aimed at a Particular Group

Discrimination based on a race or culture can show up as discrimination based on personal characteristics of a particular group, supporters said. This, in fact, often affects Black women who choose hairstyles that protect their natural, tightly curled hair. Moreover, it can also pertain to Native American men who wear their hair long or Sikh men who grow their hair for religious reasons.

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