California passes law banning hairstyle discrimination

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California has become the first state to ban discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles such as braids, twists and locks.

The new law makes California the first state to explicitly say that hairstyles are associated with race and therefore protected against discrimination in the workplace and in schools.

Holly Mitchell, a Democratic senator and a black woman who wears her hair in locks, brought the new law in and said: “We are changing the course of history, hopefully, across this country by acknowledging that what has been defined as professional hair styles and attire in the work place has historically been based on a eurocentric model – based on straight hair.”

The new law will take effect from 1 January and comes as federal courts have historically held that hair is a characteristic that can be changed, meaning there is no basis for discrimination complaints based on hairstyle.

The US Supreme Court recently refused to hear the case of an Alabama woman who said she failed to get a job because she refused to change her hair.