LAFAYETTE, La. (KADN)– A bill is being discussed upstairs at Louisiana House that would ban discrimination against “protective” hairstyles like braids, dreadlocks and afros.
Demeca Prier, a licensed hairstylist, told News15 she has been doing protective hairstyles for more than 22 years. There have been many times when his clients asked him to change his hairstyle because of the backlash they received in the workplace.
Pray never understood “why”.
“How can you tell me my own hair is unprofessional? said Pray.
House Bill 41 would make changes to current discrimination laws to protect those who wear their hair in natural, protective and culturally inspired styles at school and in the workplace.
Prier said that if she wasn’t a hairstylist, she doubts she would have been able to wear her current hairstyle to a workplace.
“My hair is hot pink, and the only reason I can wear my hair, I think, is because I’m doing this job and working for me. But I have clients for me all the time, they wish they could have their hair like mine, but they can’t because of where they work,” she explained.
The hairstylist recalls a time when her client told her she would have missed an opportunity at work if she hadn’t changed her hairstyle.
“I had a client who kept posing as a promotion because she started locs (dreadlocks) and she realized that was what was stopping her. So she came over and had me take out some locs (dreadlocks) and we pressed her hair so she looked relaxed and she got a promotion,” she said.
Derrick Norris, a licensed barber for eight years, also has clients who have faced discrimination in the workplace.
“I’ve seen literally grown men shed tears because it’s an investment in self-morality to grow your hair a certain length and make it look a certain way,” Norris said.
He recently had to cut the hair of one of his clients just so they could keep their jobs.
“He was to be hired as a delivery boy. But the owner didn’t prefer that he had a look that might have felt street-ish or hip-hop or in a thuggish way,” he continued.
Rep. Candance N. Newell (D) of New Orleans is the creator of House Bill 41. She told News15 that since the Crown Act hasn’t passed in all states, it’s a way to make sign something similar into Louisiana law.
“It’s not just natural hair, it’s how you style your hair,” Newell said.
Newell said protective styles can literally protect her hair from heat and humidity. So there should be no reason for people to be against it.
“In Louisiana, everyone should want to adopt a protective style, as hot as here,” she said.
Newell created this bill because of stories she heard about workers, like nurses, and students being discriminated against because of the way they wore their hair.
The House Rep does not believe that a person’s hairstyle should reflect their work ethic, which is why she believes this bill should be enacted.
“If you have long curly hair, wear it. If you have short, coarse hair and want to braid it, you should be able to because it doesn’t prevent you from being able and capable of doing your homework or doing your job at your job.
House Bill 41 will be debated again on Monday, May 23.