LAFAYETTE, La. (KADN)- A bill is up for debate on the Louisiana House floor that would ban discrimination against “protective” hairstyles like braids, dreadlocks, and afros.
Demeca Prier, a licensed hairstylist, told News15 that she’s been doing protective styles for over 22 years. There have been many times that her clients asked her to change their hairstyle because of the backlash they received in the work place.
Prier never understood ‘why’.
“How can you tell me that my own hair isn't professional?” Prier said.
House Bill 41 would make changes to current discrimination laws to protect those who wear their hair natural, protective and cultural-inspired styles in the school and work place.
Prier said if she wasn’t a hairstylist, she doubts that should would have been able to wear her current hairdo in a workplace.
“My hair is hot pink, and the only reason I can wear my hair I think is because I do this job and I work for me. But I have clients all the time to me 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 that she would have had a missed oppurntity at work if she hadn’t changed her hair.
“I had a client who kept getting passed up for a promotion because she started (dreadlocks) locs and she realized that that's what was stopping her. So, she came and had me take a (dreadlocks) locs out and we pressed her hair to appear to be relaxed and she got a promotion,” she said.
Derrick Norris, a licensed barber of eight years, also has clients who have been discriminated against in the workplace.
“I’ve witnessed literally grown men shed tears because it's an investment into self-moral to grow your hair a certain length and have it to have a certain look,” Norris said.
He recently had to cut one of his clients' hair just so that they can keep their job.
“He was to be hired as a delivery person. But the owner didn't prefer him to have a look that may have appeared to him to look street-ish or hip hop or in a way thuggish,” he continued.
Representative Candance N. Newell (D) of New Orleans is the creator of House Bill 41. She told News15 that since the Crown Act hasn’t been passed in every state, this was a way to have something similar signed into Louisiana law.
“It's not just the natural hair, it's the way that you style your hair,” Newell said.
Newell stated that protective styles can literally protect one’s hair from heat and humidity. So, there should be no reason why people should be against it.
“In Louisiana everyone should want to embrace a protective style, as hot as it is here,” she said.
Newell created this bill due to stories she’s heard about workers, like nurses, and students being discriminated against all because of the way they wore their hair.
The House representative does not believe that someone’s hairstyle should reflect their work ethic, that’s why she believes this bill should be signed into law.
“If you have long curly hair, wear it. If you have short coarse hair and you want to braid it up, you should be able to because that does not stop you from being able and capable of doing your schoolwork or doing your work at your job.”
House Bill 41 will be debated again Monday, May 23.