Proposed Kansas legislation would ban discrimination against dreadlocks

A bill proposed by a Kansas lawmaker would protect people from job discrimination because of their dreadlocks and other natural hairstyles.

State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, introduced a measure Monday that would protect the hairstyles under the state's anti-discrimination law, The Wichita Eagle reported. The legislation would expand the definition of race to include "traits historically associated with race," the newspaper reported, citing examples such as braids, dreadlocks and twists.

Currently, employers in Kansas can fire or refuse to hire people who wear dreadlocks.

Faust-Goudeau said she was compelled to introduce the bill after a December 2018 incident at a high school wrestling meet in New Jersey. The referee forced a wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match.

"The referee had to have someone come out and cut his dreadlocks off before he could participate in a school activity," Faust-Goudeau told the Eagle. "That's sad. I actually teared up."

There have been other dreadlock incidents. In April 2018, a Missouri teen was denied a job at a local arcade because of the length of his dreadlocks. Four months later, a 6-year-old Florida boy was denied entry into a private school because of his hair.

Faust-Goudeau said she spoke with several African American women, including Kenya Cox, executive director of the Kansas African-American Commission, the Eagle reported.

“She’d been contacted by young ladies from Kansas City, Kansas, and Topeka, Kansas, (including) one lady who was terminated from her place of employment because of her hairstyle,” Faust-Goudeau told the newspaper. “I just think it’s totally unfair that we have to change our God-given look and hair that braids, natural hair.”

Faust-Goudeau's bill is similar to bills approved in California, New Jersey and New York, the Eagle reported. She said she did not want people to change their lifestyles in order to find a job.

“From the top of your head, you’ve got to change the way you look to prevent being terminated or excluded from a place of employment or school activities, which is unfair,” Faust-Goudeau told the newspaper. “We want people to feel comfortable in their own natural way in the workplace and in schools and anywhere.”

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