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McKnight, Reynolds-Jackson, Speight & Timberlake Bill to Prohibit Hair Discrimination Signed into Law

Aiming to protect people of color facing discrimination based on their hairstyle, legislation to amend New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination to prohibit such discrimination was signed into law Thursday by the Governor.

The law (A-5564), sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Hudson), Verlina Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), Shanique Speight (D-Essex) and Britnee Timberlake (D-Essex, Passaic), amends the Law Against Discrimination so that the term “race” includes traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles.

“New Jersey is the third state to prohibit hair discrimination. This is a critical step in the right direction,” said McKnight. “A student at Buena Regional High School in New Jersey was forced by a referee at a wrestling tournament to either cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match to comply with association rules. Under this law, this student and many others, particularly African-Americans, will be protected from this kind of discrimination in the future.”

“If a person of color wants to embrace their cultural identity by wearing their hair in a certain style, they should be free to do so without fear of prejudice,” said Reynolds-Jackson. “No one should be told to straighten, cut or change their hair in any way to meet certain norms. I’m proud we have enshrined these values into our law.”

“It’s almost unbelievable to think that in 2019, people face discrimination because of the way they wear their hair, or because of how their hair naturally looks,” said Speight. “For many people, their hair is a reflection of who they are, and everyone should have freedom to be who they are, and be protected from racial bias.”

“Every person in New Jersey, regardless of their race, should be able to wear their hair with dignity and without discrimination,” said Timberlake. “This law seeks to give added protections to communities of color and prevent prejudice and discrimination in the workplace and in the hiring process.”

The law takes effect immediately.