Firing an employee or passing them over for a promotion because of their Afros, cornrow braids or dreadlocks could become illegal in Broward County.
County commissioners agreed Tuesday to put the issue of hairstyles to a public hearing next month. If approved, hairstyles that are a “trait of race” could become a protected classification under the county’s Human Rights Act, which already protects people from discrimination for their age, gender, sexual orientation and race, among other issues.
It mimics the CROWN Act, an anti-hair-discrimination law that stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” A push to pass that law has gained traction across the United States, already passing in several states. It has not passed on the Florida level but has gotten support from Palm Beach County schools, and states such as Virginia and Colorado.
“If you have a bizarre hairstyle with letters in there or symbols that might be off-putting to customers you might not be protected,” said Broward County Attorney Andrew Meyers.
But natural hair that is historically affiliated with race, such as cornrow braids or dreadlocks, would be.
In 37 years as a lawyer, “I’ve never seen anyone fired because of their hair,” said Commissioner Mark Bogen.
Mayor Dale Holness, who asked for the legislation, accused him of being naive, and said it happens all the time, saying his sister was rejected for a job because of her braids.
He said she didn’t want to use chemicals anymore on her hair, and to control it, decided to braid it, but the “employer says that’s not the image they want.”
“White folks don’t have that problem because your hair is naturally straight for the most part, right?” he said. “It’s real life, it’s not making stories up. ... We can pretend this stuff don’t happen but it does, it’s real.”
Michael Rajner, chair of the county’s Human Rights Board, said it would create a “respectful world for natural hair [and] accept people with the characteristics they are born with.”
Rajner said if someone feels they were discriminated — for a job or housing — based on hairstyle, they can file a complaint with the county’s Human Rights Section, which investigates complaints of discrimination. If there is probable cause and the employer or landlord is found to be in violation, they could be on the financial hook for damages, he said.
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