New Jersey Bans Discrimination Based on Hair

On December 19, 2019, New Jersey enacted legislation which amends the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination’s (“NJLAD”) to make clear that hairstyle discrimination is included in the existing prohibition on race-based discrimination. The amendment became effective immediately and follows similar legislation passed in New York earlier this year.

Specifically, the New Jersey law amends NJLAD to add a definition for “Race” – which has always been a protected category under the NJLAD – and for the term “Protective hairstyle.” Specifically, the amendment adds the following to the statute’s list of definitions:

  • “Race” is inclusive of traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.
  • “Protective hair styles” includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.

If not already done so, employers should review their workplace grooming and appearance policies and their enforcement of such policies, to confirm that they are applied in a nondiscriminatory manner.