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Georgia House Bill 286 Prohibits Hair Discrimination

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The Drake Institute of Research and Policy SUPPORTS Senate Bill 286 which calls on the Georgia State Legislature to pass, the Governor to sign, and the Georgia civil court system to enforce legislation prohibiting any employer from discriminating against an individual on the basis of their hair texture or protective hairstyle, which includes braids, locks or twists.  

SB 286 seeks to prohibit employer grooming policies that discriminate against black individuals on the basis of their hair texture or hair style. The bill expands the definition of “race” for the purposes of housing or employment discrimination to include “traits historically associated with race, including…hair texture and protective hairstyles,” such as locks, braids or twists. It also prohibits employers from failing to hire, refusing to hire, or discharging employees for wearing such styles.

For over 40 years, federal courts have declined to provide recourse to black women who have been discriminated against by employers on the basis of their hair texture or hair style, holding that that “grooming policies are typically outside the scope of federal employment discrimination statues because they do not discriminate on the basis of immutable characteristics.” The spirit of anti-discrimination law, however, is not to protect citizens from discrimination based only on immutable characteristics, but from discrimination rooted in the historical oppression of certain groups based on characteristics that are unique to that group, immutable or not. This bill would extend protections to black individuals in the workforce where federal courts have failed to act.

Prepared by: Raydia Martin, Lead Research & Policy Advisor, May 27, 2020

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