Discrimination Based Upon Hair Style??

A number of states have passed new laws which prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee based upon his/her hair style.  The discussion about this topic is focused on dreadlocks and the implications from that hair style although the state law would not be limited solely to whether or not an employee has dreadlocks as part of their personal fashion choices.

Wisconsin does not have a law that specifically protects an employee from discrimination based upon hair style.  There is a potential argument that an employer will discriminate against an employee because of a perception of a particular national origin although this theory has not really been litigated in the Wisconsin courts or agency.  Wisconsin employers do need to recognize the implicit discrimination that could arise due to such things as hair style or tattoos and be careful to make sure that such appearance is not part of the employment decision making process.  Some cases have upheld the right of an employer to insist that certain types of tattoos or body markings be covered under the theory of impact on customer relations but employers must be careful when insisting upon that type of action and be prepared to justify the reasons for that decision.

I do not write to sound a false alarm for Wisconsin employers but rather to simply give a reminder that your employment decisions should be based upon the conduct of the employee and not other extenuating characteristics.