Connecticut has enacted legislation (House Bill 6515) that makes clear that employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees because of their hair texture and protective hairstyles. House Bill 6515 is effective immediately.
In Connecticut, employers with three or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against individuals based on:
- Religious creed
- Sex (including pregnancy, child-bearing capacity, sterilization, fertility, or related medical conditions)
- Gender identity or expression
- Marital status
- National origin
- Present or past history of mental disability, intellectual disability, learning disability or physical disability; or
- Veteran status
House Bill 6515:
House Bill 6515 makes clear that, for the purposes of the state's nondiscrimination law, the definition of race includes ethnic traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.
Under the law, protective hairstyles include, but aren't limited to, wigs, headwraps, and hairstyles such as individual braids, cornrows, locs, twists, Bantu knots, afros and afro puffs.
Some examples of practices that could be found to violate this law include:
- Prohibiting twists, locs, braids, cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, or fades.
- Telling a Black applicant or employee with locs that they can't be in a customer-facing role unless they change their hairstyle.
- Refusing to hire a Black applicant with cornrows because their hairstyle doesn't fit the "image" the employer is trying to project.
- Transferring an employee to a non-customer-facing position because a customer complained about their Afro.
Connecticut employers should review dress codes, appearance policies, and training to ensure compliance with House Bill 6515. If your policy simply indicates that employees must maintain kempt hair, consider clarifying that kempt means that the hair is clean and well combed or arranged, and that employees can comply with a variety of hairstyles that meet those criteria.
Please contact your dedicated service professional with any questions.