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Examining if requirements to conform amount to discrimination

While there are different definitions of professionalism depending on who you ask, which industry is being considered and the environment of the workplace, there are general standards across the board that many business professionals see as crucial. While developing guidelines for acceptable behavior and appearance is important for many businesses in Indiana, they must be careful to ensure that these policies do not inhibit the right of employees to be themselves. 

One question that has some people reconsidering what is and is not acceptable is whether or not banning certain hairstyles from the workplace is, in fact, discriminating against certain races. Traditionally, African-American women have proudly shared some unique hairstyles that are true to their roots and their culture. However, more women feel pressure to conform to standards set by their employer and they end up straightening or taming their hair every day so as not to appear unprofessional or eccentric. 

Now, some states are pushing for more protection for the natural hairstyles of these African-American women who not only feel discriminated against with the pressure to conform but also experience long-term hair damage with consistent heat application to their hair. Proponents of better laws to protect these women have expressed concern about how professional standards created to discourage extreme appearances are in fact creating a bias against certain races who traditionally, have unique ways of dressing and grooming. 

If people are dealing with mistreatment in the workplace, an attorney may be able to help them. Legal professionals are familiar with anti-discrimination laws and can help to strengthen their client's case. 

Source: The Seattle Times, "More states are trying to protect black employees who want to wear natural hairstyles to work," Jena McGregor, Sept. 23, 2019

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