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Bill prohibiting job discrimination based on hairstyle advances

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A bill that would prevent an employer from firing or refusing to hire someone based on their hairstyle passed a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 265 sponsor Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, said he has heard from some of his constituents who have faced discrimination for hairstyles in the workplace. He said he faced the same in the corporate world for how he wore his hair.

The bill also says no one can be denied receiving state or federal financial assistance based on their hairstyle.

The bill states that, “the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all.”

The bill specifically mentions hairstyles more commonly used amongst the Black community like braids, locks, twists, cornrows, afros, bantu knots and fades that cannot be used as justification for firing someone.

Sen. Sam Givhan, R-Huntsville, voted against the bill saying that he thinks this will cause unnecessary litigation against employers in the state.

“I think this is going too far where we don’t need to go,” Givhan said.

Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Tuscumbia, also voted against the bill saying Alabama is a right-to-work state and he should have control over who he hires.

“As a business owner, you can wear your hair any way you want to but I’m not going to hire you in my business,” Stutts said. “I’ve got a certain level of professionalism that I want to display.”

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, also voted against the bill saying he was concerned about burdensome litigation being placed on employers but agrees that discrimination based on hairstyle shouldn’t be allowed in the state.

The final vote on the bill was 5-4 with Sen. Will Barfoot, R-Pike Road, being the other vote against. It now goes to the Senate.

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