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Hair Discrimination Ban Clears Both Allegheny County And Pittsburgh Councils

Charlie Riedel
Hair discrimination often targets Black people who have hairstyles such as braids or dreadlocks, or who wear their natural hair texture.

Allegheny County Council joined Pittsburgh City Council Tuesday in voting unanimously to ban hair discrimination in employment, education, housing, and other settings. 

Proponents of the policy note that discrimination based on hairstyles often targets Black people who keep their natural hair texture or wear styles like braids or dreadlocks.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto are both expected to sign the anti-discrimination bills. Peduto, in fact, submitted the city-level legislation to Pittsburgh’s council earlier this month.

There was little discussion of the bills on Tuesday. But when proposing the bill, the mayor’s office cited a 2019 study that found that Black women were 80 percent more likely than non-Black women to say they had to change their hair “from its natural state to fit in at the office.”

Black women, moreover, were three times as likely as other study participants to report that their hair was perceived as “unprofessional,” according to the research.

A hair discrimination ban, Peduto said in a statement announcing his legislation, “affirms our commitment to improving outcomes for Black residents and make certain that they do not face natural hair discrimination in the workplace, when searching for a home, or when entering a business.”

On Tuesday, county council also unanimously passed a bill that would make Juneteenth a holiday for county workers. Juneteenth celebrates the emancipation of slaves in the U.S. The county measure would replace primary election day as a paid day off. A spokesperson for Fitzgerald said the executive supports the idea, and expects to approve it upon further review.