France Seeks To Bar ‘Hair Discrimination’ In Workplaces

French politicians have backed a law preventing “hair discrimination.” The legislation, passed by the lower house of Parliament and now headed to the Senate, will ban discrimination based on hairstyle and applies to black people, blondes, and redheads. Olivier Serva, from the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe, introduced the bill and argued that black women in France were frequently encouraged to change their hairstyles before job interviews. He said this amounts to a disadvantage and an unlawful discriminatory practice.


For the proposals to become law, the Senate must approve them, and critics warn they may face opposition there.


The move comes after a black Air France employee won a high court battle in 2022 for the right to work with braided hair.


The issue has also been addressed in the US, and several states have enacted the Crown Act in recent years. California was the first to ban hair discrimination in 2019, and since then, dozens have followed suit. As of last summer, 24 states had instituted the legislation, including Texas, Arkansas, and Illinois, and while it passed through the US House of Representatives in 2022, it fell in the Senate.


A study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in 2023 claimed that black women, in particular, face regular disadvantage because of their hair, which is more likely to be viewed as “unprofessional” than that of their white counterparts. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said hair discrimination is rooted in “systemic racism” and its purpose is to “preserve white spaces.”

The EPI research found that 66% of black women change their hair for a job interview, with 41% transforming it from curly to straight. It furthermore claimed that 20% of black women in America had been sent home from work because of their hairstyles.

In France, conservative politicians oppose the new proposals. Fabien Di Filippo of Les Républicains asked if the country should expect a law protecting bald people from discrimination in shampoo adverts.