Recent actions by New York City and California state governments to extend legal protections against racial discrimination to include hairstyles linked to ethnic, racial or cultural identity are likely the start of a trend that employers will need to consider, employment lawyers say.

In California, a state legislator recently introduced a bill, expected to become law, that would extend the definition of racial discrimination to include bias against hair textures and styles as traits associated with race and ethnicity. California Senate Bill 188, introduced by Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, is supported by a national alliance of civil rights groups that says it intends to pursue similar legislation in other states. As introduced, the bill applies to workplace discrimination but the Senate may consider amending it to include schools and public accommodations.

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