OLYMPIA, Wash. (CBS Local) — Employers and schools would not be allowed to discriminate based on hairstyle under a bill being considered in Washington state.
“Black hair is beautiful,” Rep. Melanie Morgan, an African-American Democrat from Lakewood, told fellow state representatives during a committee hearing on Tuesday.
“When white women show up in the place of employment with locks or dreads, everyone looks at them and says, ‘how cute.’ But black hair, when we show up in dreads and purple hair, we have to change something,” Morgan testified. “We’re not assimilating.”
Morgan’s bill, HB 2602, would amend the state’s existing anti-discrimination law to protect “hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
New Washington bill would make hair discrimination illegal https://t.co/GvE19ZAl7m
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Examples listed in the bill include hairstyles such as “afros, braids, dreadlocks, and twists.”
“I have had trusted messengers and well-meaning people tell me that I need to straighten my hair to be considered more professional. And as a black woman, I understand that when people say it needs to be more professional, that means it needs to be more white,” said RaShelle Davis, a senior policy advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee.
Although no one testified against the bill, some lawmakers on the committee expressed concern for how the rule would affect businesses that want to present a uniform image.
Supporters said employees could still be required to change their hair styles for well-documented safety reasons.