September 23, 2020

Volume X, Number 267

September 23, 2020

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September 22, 2020

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September 21, 2020

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Virginia Passes Law Defining Racial Discrimination to Include Hairstyles, Other Historic Traits

Virginia has become the fourth state (joining California, New Jersey, and New York) to define racial discrimination to include traits historically associated with race, such as hairstyles. The new Virginia law will go into effect on July 1, 2020.

On March 4, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam signed an amendment to the Virginia Human Rights Act, Virginia Code Section 2.2-3901. While the Virginia Human Rights Act defines “because of sex or gender” or “on the basis of sex or gender,” Section 2.2-3901 failed to define or elaborate on the meaning of “the basis of race.” The new law (SB 50) provides:

The terms “because of race” or “on the basis of race” or terms of similar import when used in reference to discrimination in the Code and acts of the General Assembly include because of or on the basis of traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.

Significantly, while the new law specifically references hairstyle discrimination, it prohibits discrimination on the basis of race with regards to any traits historically associated with race.

With this change in the law, employers should review their employee handbooks, policies, and training for compliance. Employers should pay particular attention to anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, as well as grooming and appearance policies. Employers should review their accommodation policies based on religious or cultural beliefs for compliance with the new law.

In addition, employers should update their supervisory training to take into account the new law as part of any anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume X, Number 68


About this Author

Kristina Vaquera Labor & Employment Attorney

Kristina H. Vaquera is a Principal in the Norfolk, Virginia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses exclusively on labor and employment counseling and litigation.

Ms. Vaquera represents employers in federal and state court lawsuits and agency investigations and charges covering a wide range of statutes and subjects, including anti-discrimination and civil rights laws, wrongful termination claims, disability accommodation and access, wage and hour laws, covenants not to compete, leave of absence claims, negligent hire/retention, and breaches of...

Milena Radovic Employment Litigation Lawyer Jackson Lewis Law Firm

Milena Radovic is an Associate in the Norfolk, Virginia, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Ms. Radovic was a prosecutor in the Office of the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney.

While attending law school, Ms. Radovic served as a Manuscript Editor of the Richmond Journal of Law and Technology. As a member of the University of Richmond School of Law Trial Advocacy Board, Ms. Radovic competed and finished as an advancing finalist in the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association Trial Advocacy Tournament and regional runner-up in the American Association for Justice Regional Trial Advocacy Tournament. During law school, Ms. Radovic performed more than 120 hours of pro bono service and received the Pro Bono Certificate from the Harry L. Carrico Center for Pro Bono & Public Service. Ms. Radovic externed for the Employment Unit of the Virginia Office of the Attorney General, worked as teaching assistant for Appellate Advocacy, and was a research assistant for Professor Ann C. Hodges.