Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

City Moves to Ban Discrimination by Hairstyle

Proposal makes hairstyles a protected class alongside sex, religion, race.

By - Jan 11th, 2021 05:22 pm
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Braids. (Pixabay License).

The City of Milwaukee is poised to ban discrimination based on hairstyles associated with racial, ethnic or cultural identities.

The proposal would prevent any employer, public or private, from denying employment on the basis of hairstyle. It would add hairstyles as a protected class similar to an individual’s sex, race, religion or national origin.

“The reality is that some people think of hair as simply that, a fashion trend,” said Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs on Monday afternoon to members of the Judiciary & Legislation Committee. “The reality is that hair to some of us has cultural significance.”

Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, the lead sponsor, said the effort was championed by the Equal Rights Commission. “There were female leaders across the country that brought this to a lot of people’s attention,” he said.

“This past year has been one of great reflection for many people in this country,” said Coggs. “Police issues is one thing, but allowing discrimination based on hairstyles that have cultural significance is an example of discrimination.”

“Just as important as it is for us to talk about policing, and how to do things differently in this country, it is important for us to talk about how to defy, dismantle and take apart systemic racism,” said the alderwoman.

The ordinance gives examples of natural hair, braids, locks, an afro, cornrows and twists as protected hairstyles.

Employers would be able to appeal the restrictions on a case-by-case basis similar to other protections said Hamilton. Ald. Michael Murphy noted a situation could arise, such as operating heavy machinery, where unprotected long-hair would present a safety risk. The ordinance would not eliminate the requirement to wear a hairnet in food preparation settings.

Council members Chantia Lewis and Nikiya Dodd are joining Hamilton and Coggs in sponsoring the proposal.

The committee unanimously adopted the request. The full council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance on January 19th.

A full copy of the existing equal rights ordinance is available on the city website. The ordinance currently offers protection on the basis of “sex, race, religion, color, national origin or ancestry, age, disability, lawful source of income, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, victimhood of domestic abuse or sexual assault, past or present membership in the military service, HIV status, domestic partnership, genetic identity, homelessness, familial status, or an individual’s affiliation or perceived affiliation with any of these categories.”

Categories: City Hall, Politics, Weekly

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