Is it legal to consider an applicant’s hairstyle when hiring?

by | Mar 18, 2019 | Employment Law

As an employer, you likely consider many things when making hiring decisions. You probably take into account an applicant’s educational background and related job experience. You might also consider someone’s personality and how they would likely fit in with your company culture.

To a certain extent, you may subconsciously consider whether you would like to offer someone a job because of his or her appearance. And although discriminatory hiring practices already protect applicants from decisions related to matters such as race, gender and age, it may soon be illegal to discriminate against someone based on their hairstyle.

What California’s Senate bill 188 proposes

Introduced the end of January, SB-188 may make it illegal for California employers to base employment decisions on hairstyle.

Depending on the situation, some potential employees could find grounds to take legal action due to religious discrimination, since some grooming practices are part of religious observance. As such, if SB-188 is put into law, it would give an employee the right to style their hair in accordance with their religious beliefs.

Racial discrimination could also be a factor in a dispute. Certain hairstyles may be historically associated with a particular race. These styles may include:

  • Braids
  • Twists
  • Locks

Similar guidelines are already in effect in New York City, aiming to remedy “the disparate treatment of black people.”

Learn more about your potential employees

As you interview prospective employees, remember that everyone has something they could contribute to your team. Regardless of what someone’s hair texture or style might be, you would be wise to delve deeper into who a person is, what they can contribute to your business and why they want to join your team.

Learning more about the people who apply for positions in your company could help you expand your mind as you work to grow your business. It might also keep you out of court.