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Hairstyle discrimination bill introduced

A Pennsylvania state legislator wants the state to join New York and California in banning discrimination based on natural hairstyles.

House Bill 2725 is sponsored by Reps. Joanna E. McClinton, D-Delaware/Philadelphia, and Summer Lee, D-Allegheny, and would mirror recently-passed legislation in other states to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or hair style.

New York’s legislation was signed in July 2019 and updated the definition of race used in existing state law, adding “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” New York and California acted after a black high school wrestler in New Jersey was told by a referee that he had to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a wrestling match. The incident was caught on video and went viral.

“We know that subtle forms of discrimination occur when individuals are singled out for having hairstyles outside the norm of what “society “says is acceptable, proper or professional,” McClinton wrote in her legislative memorandum. “Unfortunately, anti-discrimination laws do not necessarily keep pace with changing workplace, educational or social environments, this leaves people at risk of becoming targets of discrimination. Dreadlocks, braids, twist, bantu knots and afros are typically hairstyles associated with African Americans. Historically these hairstyles create a problem for many human resources managers, educators and coaches, who want employees, students or participants to follow established policies and maintain a uniformed “neat” appearance regardless of culture or ethnicity.”

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