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2 common work dress code rules that are subtly racist

Both federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on race. No company should ever make hiring or firing decisions based on the color of someone’s skin, their country of origin or their cultural background.

Racism in the workplace is often subtle. Rather than openly saying that they won’t hire workers from certain backgrounds, companies make their employment offers unattractive to certain people or make it easier for them to discipline and fire specific workers.

There are two common rules included in workplace dress codes or employment contracts that may lead to racial discrimination.

Limitations on ethnic hairstyles

Many businesses require that their workers show up to the job looking professional. Unfortunately, the standards some companies have for professional appearance are inherently racist.

They expect workers to have straight hair, for example. They might also prohibit certain protective hairstyles used by people with naturally curly hair. Not only does this open up people to disciplinary action for factors outside of their control, but it potentially imposes a financial hardship in the form of frequent professional hair styling appointments.

Rules against facial hair

There are two reasons why a ban on beards by an employer could actually be a form of subtle racism. The first is that some people cannot shave their facial hair for cultural and religious reasons. The second is that shaving can cause worse skin irritation for African-Americans than for people of other racial backgrounds, leading both to discomfort and unattractive shaving bumps. 

Identifying employment practices that infringe on your right can help you fight back if you have faced racial discrimination at work.