Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1557809
 
 

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Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis Under Title VII


Angela Onwuachi-Willig


University of Iowa College of Law

February 23, 2010

Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 98, 2010
U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-10

Abstract:     
This Essay re-examines antidiscrimination case law that allows employers to enforce hair grooming policies that prohibit natural hairstyles for black women, such as braids, locks, and twists. In so doing, this Essay sets forth an intersectional, biological - as opposed to cultural - argument for why such bans are discriminatory under Title VII.

Specifically, this Essay argues that antidiscrimination law fails to address intersectional race and gender discrimination against black women through such grooming restrictions because it does not recognize braided, twisted, and locked hairstyles as black-female equivalents of Afros, which are protected as racial characteristics under existing law. The claim here is that, based on current rationales, natural hairstyles for black women should already be protected under antidiscrimination law and are currently excluded only because of courts’ incomplete understanding of the nature of black women’s hair. Additionally, this Essay argues that courts should extend the application of the special “undue burden” test from gender discrimination cases to race discrimination cases and apply the test intersectionally in hairstyle-related grooming code cases brought by black women. Specifically, this Essay argues that antidiscrimination law fails to address such intersectional race and gender discrimination against black women because it does not recognize the undue burdens that such policies impose on black women to either hide or change a natural, phenotypical characteristic. Overall, this Essay explains the dangers of implicit racial bias in the workplace as demonstrated by raced and gendered norms in grooming codes that place a ban on hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

Keywords: Title VII, Discrimination, Employment, Race, Gender, Intersectionality, Hair, Grooming code, Dress code, Appearance, Undue burdens, Unequal burdens, Disparate Treatment, Disparate Impact, Bias, Stereotyping, Immutable, Mutable, Jespersen, Rogers v. American Airlines, Racism, Sexism, BFOQ

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Date posted: February 24, 2010 ; Last revised: March 29, 2010

Suggested Citation

Onwuachi-Willig, Angela, Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis Under Title VII (February 23, 2010). Georgetown Law Journal, Vol. 98, 2010; U Iowa Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-10. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1557809

Contact Information

Angela Onwuachi-Willig (Contact Author)
University of Iowa College of Law ( email )
290 Boyd Law Building
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States
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