Steven Gatley Quoted by SHRM on Calif. Hair Discrimination Law

Los Angeles, Calif. (September 20, 2019) – Los Angeles Partner Steven G. Gatley was recently quoted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in its article “Hairstyle-Discrimination Bans Help Shield Workers from Race Bias.” The article reviews California’s recent discrimination statute, known as the CROWN Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination based on an employee’s hairstyle or hair texture.

Mr. Gatley, who previously wrote about the CROWN Act for Lewis Brisbois’ labor & employment law blog The Grindstone, told SHRM he was initially skeptical that the new law would provide any additional protections for workers, or was even necessary. He noted that workers can already bring claims for discrimination or harassment based on race, making the law seem redundant. However, Mr. Gatley said he eventually changed his mind after reviewing the history behind the law and the research supporting its enactment.

"This law is not redundant but necessary to provide further protections for African-American women in the workplace," said Mr. Gatley.

California follows in New York’s footsteps in enacting the law, which updates the definition of race under the state’s anti-discrimination laws to include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles."

While he does agree with the principles of law, Mr. Gatley noted that it will most certainly lead to a rise in litigation, for which employers should be prepared.

"I believe we will see a rise in race-related claims here in California based on hairstyles," Mr. Gatley said.

Mr. Gatley is vice-chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Labor & Employment Practice, and a member of its OSHA Safety & Health Practice. He frequently presents to HR managers and management personnel throughout California on a variety of employment topics.

Read the full SHRM article here.

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