California bans discrimination against afros, dreadlocks

The backstory
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The backstory

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who signed the bill, spoke of a high school student who was forced last December to cut off his dreadlocks before a wrestling match or forfeit the bout.

The student was made to choose whether to "lose an athletic competition or lose his identity," said Newsom.

"That is played out in workplaces, it's played out in schools — not just in athletic competitions and settings — every single day all across America."

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Hair apparent
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Hair apparent

According to the bill's text, hair "remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for black individuals."

Employers will still be permitted to require employees to secure their hair for safety or hygienic reasons.

New York City adopted similar legislation earlier this year.

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 What the law says
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What the law says

Alikah Hatchett-Fall, who runs Sacred Crowns Salon in Sacramento, said she's had black men come into her salon asking to have their hair cut off because they can't find jobs.

The law, she said, "means that psychologically and mentally people can be at ease and be able to get the jobs they want, keep the jobs they want, and get promoted at the jobs they want." California's new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, is significant because federal courts have historically held that hair is a characteristic that can be changed, meaning there's no basis for discrimination complaints based on hairstyle.

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