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Let The Sunshine In: California & New York Prohibit Discrimination Based On Hairstyle

Within the past two weeks, both California and New York have passed laws prohibiting employers from discriminating based upon hairstyle.  Governor Gavin Newsom signed California’s “CROWN Act” (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) on July 3, 2019.  The law amends the state’s Education and Government Codes to define “race or ethnicity” as “inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.” It takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed New York’s SB 6209 on July 12, 2019.  It amends the definition of “race” under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) to include the same “protective hairstyles” language as the California law, thus making it unlawful under the NYSHRL to discriminate on the basis of such traits in employment.  Both the California and New York laws define “protective hairstyles” to include hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.  The New York law took effect immediately upon signing.

In light of these new laws, California and New York employers should revisit their grooming standards policies to ensure they are compliant.

© 2019 Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP

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About this Author

Jeremy Mittman, Mitchell Silberberg Law Firm, Labor and Employment, Litigation Attorney, Los Angeles
Partner

Jeremy Mittman represents management in litigation of employment-related matters, including discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, as well as state and federal wage and hour claims. Jeremy regularly counsels clients on compliance with employment-related laws and on enforcing personnel policies and procedures. Jeremy has extensive experience representing employers in a variety of industries such as financial services, security services, and numerous entertainment and media companies. In addition, Jeremy works with clients on multi-country HR projects involving...

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Samuel Richman Labor Employment Attorney
Associate

Legal Expertise

Samuel Richman has extensive experience in representing clients from public and private companies to high-net-worth individuals in all aspects of litigation for commercial, probate, business and entertainment matters. Samuel regularly advises clients on Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FLSA, FMLA and GINA compliance matters. In addition, he has successfully defended multiple clients against various discrimination cases.

Representative Matters

  • Drafted a successful motion for summary judgment on a federal class action FLSA lawsuit
  • Second-chaired the successful defense of a class action arbitration alleging unfair labor practices
  • Managed all discovery matters for numerous state and federal discrimination cases
  • Conducted and defended several depositions in employment discrimination matters
  • Drafted dispositive choice of law motion successfully arguing for California law to apply over Tennessee law
  • Drafted multiple employee handbooks

Other Career Experience

  • Associate, Dickinson Wright PLLC
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